Nittoli and the Musketeers open their season this weekend in South Carolina.
Feb. 12, 2014
CINCINNATI - Xavier baseball is days away from taking the field in Greenville, S.C. against Toledo on Friday, Feb. 14. The final installment of the 2014 preview looks at XU's outfield.
XU lost two outfielders from last year's squad, Mark Elwell and Daniel Rod. Elwell started in 56 games for the Musketeers in center field and was an offensive power leading the team in runs scored (38), hits (70) and stolen bases (15). The righty outfielder graduated as Xavier's all-time leader in number of times hit-by-pitch.
Nittoli will most likely start in left field on his non-pitch days. On top of 45.2 innings pitched last year, the versatile outfielder batted for a .281 average and led the team in doubles (17), RBIs (41) and home runs (6). The Gibsonia, Pa. native made the 2013 Atlantic 10 Baseball All-Championship Team.
For Nittoli's pitching days, Tres Eberhardt will possibly take over left field duties. Playing in 42 games last year, Eberhardt recorded 26 hits in 111 at-bats and was the only Musketeer to record a perfect fielding percentage.
Elliott will fill in for Elwell in center to begin the 2014 campaign. Known for his speed, the redshirt senior made an appearance on ESPN's Sports Center Top 10 Plays with a diving catch into the bleachers during the Atlantic 10 tournament. At the plate, Elliott recorded nine hits including two doubles and a home run.
Right field will most likely belong to Brian Bruening, who is coming off a medical redshirt from last year. Only playing in 17 games, Bruening hit for a team-best .364 average in 66 at-bats and hit safely in 14 of the 17 contests. The redshirt senior carried over a 12-game hit streak from 2012, which he extended to 21 games in 2013. The streak tied for second-best in program history.
Other players who saw time in right field last year include senior Jake Forrester and junior Joe Forney. Forrester saw action in 34 games, belting 23 hits and 11 RBIs in just 85 at-bats. Forney, who split time at first base and right field a season ago, solidified his position at first base by the end of the season. The junior was selected to the Preseason All-BIG EAST Team at first base.
Redshirt junior Patrick Jones rounds out the returning outfielders. Jones saw action in 10 games last year while recording seven hits at the plate in 29 at-bats.
Freshman Joe Gellenbeck is the only new face in the outfield this year for the Musketeers. The native of Lebanon, Ohio, joins the program after a great prep career at local baseball power St. Xavier High School.