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2008 Elizabethtown College Baseball Preview

The Elizabethtown College baseball team returns this season with 16 letterwinners and eight newcomers, along with one goal: to win the Commonwealth Conference Championship and advance to the NCAA tournament for the third straight season for second-year head coach Cliff Smith.

The Blue Jays will be lead by last year’s co-conference player of the year, senior Jared Auman (Northumberland, PA/Shikellamy). Auman last season led the team with a batting average of .404, in hits with 61, and RBI’s with 28.

He will see time as both starting catcher and first baseman, as junior Tom Semanek (Swoyersville, PA/Bishop Hoban) will share catching duties while junior Sam Heaps (Landenberg, PA/Avon Grove) will also play first base when not on the mound.

A second team All-Commonwealth performer for his pitching last season. Heaps ended last season with an 8-4 record and an impressive ERA of 3.01, while walking just 18 batters in 68 2/3 innings of work.

The starting second baseman will be sophomore Eric Luff (Lincoln University, PA/Avon Grove), a newcomer to the team this season. Returning at shortstop will be sophomore Matt Vinagro (Fredericksburg, VA/ Stafford), who started every game in his first year and batted .237 with 17 RBI’s.

Starting at third base and replacing first-team All-Conference Dean Whetham will be sophomore Ben Yeager (Pottstown, PA/Owen J. Roberts), a transfer from Juniata College where he batted .303 with 23 hits last season.

Returning in right field will be senior Brandon Watson (Philadelphia, PA/Central), a first team All-Commonwealth performer last season. Watson was third on the team with a gaudy batting average of .350 and he was third on the team as well with 50 hits.

Moving from second base to left field will be junior Adam Sheibley (Landisburg, PA/West Perry), while sophomore Rodney Francis (Pottstown, PA/Owen J. Roberts) will move from left field to center field after starting 24 games last season and hitting .346 with eight steals.

Junior Matt Kutz (New Cumberland, PA/Cedar Cliff) is slated to be the number-two pitcher after going 2-5 with a 2.98 earned run average in nine starts last year.

Vying for the number-three spot in the rotation will be sophomores Ryan Barrett (Knox, PA/Keystone), who appeared in seven games last year, and Adam Hartzell (Spring City, PA/Owen J. Roberts), who went 0-3 in four starts in his first year.

Senior Chris Minakowski (Roslyn, PA/Abington) earns the nod as the closer after going 2-0 with three saves and a 3.86 earned run average in 16 relief outings last year.

The Blue Jays will start their season on Saturday, Feb. 23 at Shenandoah and will begin Commonwealth Conference play on Friday, March 28 at Widener.

-Mike Behounek '11 contributed to this article