NORFOLK, Va. (ODUSports.com) – The Old Dominion baseball team begins its Conference USA title defense this weekend with three games against Iona. The Monarchs and Gaels play at 3 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Around the Horn
The Monarchs enjoyed one of the finest years in program history last season, going 44-16 and winning their first ever Conference USA Tournament title. ODU was seeded 11th in the NCAA Tournament and was the No. 1 seed of a regional for the first time in program history. Old Dominion was second in the nation with a team-record 105 home runs and was top-10 nationally in slugging percentage, runs scored, hits and triples. Additionally, Andy Garriola led the country with 72 runs batted in.
Old Dominion returns eight of nine regular starters from that high-powered lineup, losing only all-American and VaSID State Player of the Year Kyle Battle. However, the Monarchs do welcome back former freshman all-American Chris Dengler, who played just six games last season due to injury.
On the mound, the Monarchs lost a pair of weekend starers in Hunter Gregory and Ryne Moore. Gregory was first team all-conference last season, going 8-2 with a 2.95 ERA and 88 strikeouts. Moore was 9-1 with a 3.16 ERA and 80 strikeouts. Both Nick Pantos and Tommy Gertner, who combined for 26 starts and 112.1 innings in 2021, return from last year’s rotation.
In the bullpen, ODU returns a pair of key late-inning arms in Jason Hartline and Noah Dean. Hartline was a second team all-conference reliever last season, going 5-0 with a 1.88 ERA and 60 strikeouts. Dean shared the conference lead and was top-30 nationally with nine saves and struck out 44 batters in just 21.1 innings.
Coaches within C-USA remain bullish on the Monarchs, voting them third overall and first in the East Division in the preseason poll. Additionally, six ODU players – Tommy Bell, Dean, Brock Gagliardi, Garriola, Jason Hartline and Carter Trice – featured on the Preseason All-Conference USA Team, the most of any C-USA program.
The Gaels played just 14 games last season, going 3-11, and are under the direction of first-year head coach Conor Burke. Iona was picked to finish 10th in the 11-team MAAC.
Iona returns its top-two hits leaders from last season in Jake Field (17) and Will Jennings (16). Jennings also paced the team with a .372 batting average and four doubles.
Brothers Blake and Drew Helmstetter return to the hill for Iona. They combined for five starts last season, going 1-3 with 30 strikeouts.
The Monarchs are 7-0 all time against Iona. The two sides last played in 2007.
ODU’s six-game homestand to open the season continues next weekend with games against Binghamton on Feb. 25 (3 p.m.), Feb. 26 (2 p.m.) and Feb. 27 (1 p.m.).