Get to Know These Position Players

Andrew Thole
Thomas More
Sr. | 1B | 6-1

Andrew Thole was named Presidents' Athletic Conference Player of the Year, first team All-PAC, first team ABCA All-Mideast Region and first team All-American by after one of the best seasons of any player in collegiate baseball in 2011. The slugging first baseman led Division III with a school record 17 home runs in only 37 games, while batting .385 and adding 52 RBI. Thole leads the charge of six returning starters from a team that went 29-9 last season and won the PAC Tournament title. The Saints are ranked No. 13 in the preseason Collegiate Baseball poll.

Nick Boggan
Cal Lutheran
Jr. | 3B | 6-2

Key Notes:
• One of two underclassmen on 2011 All-American teams
• His .409 average was the second-highest mark in the SCIAC
• Led the conference with his slugging percentage (.698), total bases (104), RBI (45) and home run (10) totals

Mike Nodzenski
Sr. | C | 6-2

Key Notes:
• Preseason first team All-American in 2012
• Three-time Midwest Conference South Division Player of the Year
• Was fourth nationally in slugging percentage (.850), fifth in batting average (.465) and on-base percentage (.556) and sixth in home runs (12)

Brandon Rogalski
Washington (Mo.)
Sr. | OF | 6-0

Key Notes:
• 2011 first team All-American and first team All-UAA team
• Set new school single-season records for hits (74) and RBI (60)
• Finished regular season ranked fifth in Division III in hits (74), sixth in doubles (20) and RBI (60)

Michael Tucker
Anderson (Ind.)
Sr. | C | 6-5

Key Notes:
• Set the AU career home run record with his 39th, breaking Jeff Griffith’s 24-year-old record of 38
• Named Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Most Valuable Player
• Finished second in Division III with 16 home runs, while hitting .433

Jordan Walton
Sr. | 1B | 6-0

Key Notes:
• Broke the NCAA single season doubles record with 31, the previous record was 27
• Led the nation with 84 hits, which broke the ODAC single season record
• Finished with 131 total bases, leading the ODAC and placed him fourth in the nation

Keep an Eye on These Pitchers

Brian Gasser
Sr. | RHP | 6-3

One of the biggest reasons Marietta was able to claim its first national championship since 2006 a year ago? The ace of the Etta Express' pitching staff, Brian Gasser. He's the reigning Division III Pitcher of the Year and Co-Player of the Year after earning first team All-America honors last season. He led the nation with 14 wins and posted a 1.06 earned run average and struck out 89 hitters in 93.1 innings of work. The senior was also named the Mideast Region and Ohio Athletic Conference Kent Tekulve Pitcher of the Year.

Brendan Close
Sr. | RHP | 6-4

Key Notes:
• First-team All-American in 2011
• Posted a 1.00 ERA in 80.2 innings pitched while striking out 100 batters and walking only five
• Had a 10-0 record, including seven complete games and four shutouts

Ben Hughes
St. Olaf
Sr. | RHP | 6-5

Key Notes:
• Named the MIAC's Pitcher of the Year in 2011
• Was 7-1 with a 2.50 ERA, while striking out 83 in 57.2 innings
• Finished second in Division III with 12.95 strikeouts per nine innings last year

Mike Lawlor
Western New Eng.
Sr. | RHP | 6-3

Key Notes:
• Named a 2012 preseason second team All-American
• Ranked among the top relief pitchers in the nation last year compiling a 3-1 record with a school-record 10 saves (fifth in nation)
• Had a 1.58 ERA in 40 innings of work while striking out 56 batters

Brian Rauh
Jr. | RHP | 6-2

Key Notes:
• Finished his second season with an 11-0 record to move to 22-0 in his collegiate career
• Recorded a team-best 1.74 ERA and led all of Division III with 133 strikeouts in 113.2 innings
• Tossed seven complete games (a CU record) and two shutouts

Mike Russo
Sr. | RHP | 6-5

Key Notes:
• Second team All-American and New Jersey Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2011
• Set school record with 10 wins to go along with 1.93 ERA
• Helped Cougars to seventh consecutive 30-win season

Follow Along with These Programs

Key Players (Yr., Pos., 2011 Stats): Brian Rauh (Jr., SP, 11-0, 1.74 ERA), Mark Saatzer (So., 1B, .317, 34 RBI), Adam Velez (So., OF, .309, 1 HR, 21 RBI).

Noting the Panthers: Chapman came close to securing its first national championship since 2003 last season, if not for scorching-hot Marietta. The 2012 season could be the year, considering seven everyday players return and six of seven pitchers return that threw at least 23 innings last season. Leading the charge is Brian Rauh, who is 22-0 in his first two seasons on the mound. The Panthers will also look to junior righthander Kevin Osaki after posting a 0.68 ERA in 2011. At the plate, Chapman will look to improve upon a .292 batting average as a team -- a 16-year low.

Key Players (Yr., Pos., 2011 Stats):
Lee Cavico (Sr., 1B, .356, 9 HR, 48 RBI),  Chris Cirlincione (Sr., SP, 7-1, 1.09 ERA), Mike Russo (Sr., SP, 10-2, 1.93 ERA).

Noting the Cougars: Kean had a disappointing finish to the 2011 season. Another trip to Appleton was followed by two consecutive losses ending its bid for another championship. Neil Ioviero's team will look to get back there once again as the pitching rotation returns five starters that combined for 29 wins last season while adding relievers that accounted for six wins and seven saves. The Cougars also have speed that returns as senior Vinny Galya will lead the way after swiping 33 stolen bases last season.

Key Players (Yr., Pos., 2011 Stats):
Austin Blaski (Sr., SP, 12-2, 1.62 ERA), Brian Gasser (Sr., SP, 14-1, 1.06 ERA), Tim Saunders (Sr., SS, .385, 3 HR, 53 RBI).

Noting the Pioneers: Marietta rode the arm of staff ace Brian Gasser all the way to a record fifth national championship in 2011. Named Pitcher of the Year after going 14-1 with a 1.06 ERA in 2011, Gasser leads the charge of 14 returning players for the Pioneers. Marietta also returns senior All-Americans Tim Saunders and Austin Blaski. Saunders, the Pioneers’ shortstop, was the Most Outstanding Player of the OAC Tournament. A right-handed pitcher, Blaski was named the Most Outstanding Player at the NCAA National Championship.

Other Teams to Watch: Amherst, Buena Vista, Christopher Newport, Cortland State, Linfield, Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Top Contests to Watch in 2012

No. 1 Marietta -- March 9-10, 17: at Piedmont March 16: vs. Rowan April 14: vs. No. 10 Heidelberg (DH)

No. 2 Chapman -- March 2-4: at No. 22 Trinity (Texas) March 20: vs. No. 3 Kean April 13-15: vs. No. 4 Linfield

No. 3 Kean -- March 16: at No. 20 Redlands March 20: at No. 2 Chapman March 25: at No. 16 Keystone

All photos courtesy of respective school athletic departments.