Our Charlottesville Regional Previews concludes with Virginia’s opening game opponent, the Army Black Knights. For the fifth consecutive year, the Black Knights won the Patriot League title and rolled through the regular season in record setting fashion. Their 21-4 Patriot League regular season was a whopping seven games ahead of second place Bucknell Bison and Navy Midshipmen. That performance was enough to earn first year manager Chris Tracz Patriot Year Coach of the Year. And while the gaudy record is great, what’s likely most important for this Army team is their first sweep over Navy since 2012.
Their staff is headlined by Patriot League Pitcher of the Year Tanner Gresham who compiled a 5-1 record, 2.90 ERA and crazy good .194 batting average against. He repeated as First Team All-Patriot League, but hasn’t pitched since an 11-4 win over Navy on April 22nd. If he’s healthy, I’d expect him to start, but if not the Black Knights will be just fine going with Matthew Ronnebaum. Ronnebaum went 6-3 with a 5.01 ERA and led the Patriot league with 82 Ks on his way to All-Patriot First Team honors. However, as good as those two have been, Mike Ruggieri leads the team in wins with seven and ERA of 2.86. And out of the bullpen (maybe) is the versatile Robbie Buecker. The senior Captain went 5-3 in 20 appearances, seven of which were starts and chipped in two saves.
At the plate, Army set a school record with 60 home runs and were led by Patriot League Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and Third Team All-American (College Baseball Newspaper), shortstop Kevin Dubrule. Dubrule hit .411 along with 19 doubles, and 68 RBI all of which led the team. Along with Dubrule, the Army lineup features two additional All-Patriot First teamers beginning with Ross Friedrick who led the team in home runs with 17 while batting .372. Catcher Derek Berg hit .319 and led the team in runs scored with 67 while chipping in 12 home runs. On the All-Patriot second team, third baseman Sam Ruta batted .300, led the team in triples, and came in tied for second in home runs with 13. Tied with Ruta for home runs is Braden Golinski. Golinski provided both power and speed. In addition to his 13 home runs, he led the team with 17 stolen bases. It’s a potent lineup, but the question remains how’ll they’ll compete against a step up in competition.
The Black Knights are making their 11th NCAA Regional appearance and third trip to Charlottesville. In 2012 Army went 0-2 with both losses coming coincidentally to UVA and Oklahoma. In 2013, they gave the Hoos a scare falling 2-1 before bowing out to UNC Wilmington.
The Charlottesville Regional kicks off at Noon on Friday as Army takes on host Virginia. The game can be seen on ESPN+