By Max Liebel
NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y.- Usually when someone mentions baseball around this time, it is met with thoughts of sunny florida and the spring games each MLB team will play to get ready for the season. Unfortunately, the Baseball team doesn’t have this luxury. The Spring semester means practices in Kiernan, sweatshirts to practice, and keeping a close eye on the weather report.
The 2018 season was full of highs and lows for the Purple Eagles. However, their 24-27 record isn’t exactly telling of the season. Niagara posted a 12-5 home record and a 13-11 record in MAAC play.
SS Greg Cullen led all D1 programs in batting average (.458), and was drafted in the 15th round of the MLB draft by the Atlanta Braves. With Cullen in the pros, the Purple Eagles will rely on the slugging of Peter Battaglia, who led the team in home runs (7), to fill in the void in the lineup. Battaglia was named to the Preseason All-MAAC team and is expected to have a big season.
P Cody Eckerson led Niagara’s bullpen last year with a 6-2 record in 14 appearances. Eckerson had a 2.29 ERA (tied for best in school history), made First Team All MAAC, and struck out 87 batters in 2018. Eckersons presence on the mound won’t be easily replaced, but their are reinforcements.
Sophomore P Ben Erwin is returning for the Purple Eagles. Erwin posted a 5-2 record last year and was tied for third on the team last year in strikeouts (31). P Tyler Howard is another one to look out for. Howard was third on the team last year in ERA (2.88) and was second on the team in strikeouts (39).
There are always question marks that surround teams heading into a new season. However for the Purple Eagles, there are very big shoes to fill and as of now, the Purple Eagles have the pieces in place to fill those shoes accordingly. NU opens up their season February 15th against North Carolina A&T State in Greensboro, North Carolina.