Frazier, a Freshman All-American last season, is coming off a season in which he set the single-season school record for home runs (13) while hitting .354 with 56 RBI. After a standout summer in the NECBL, where he was named the league’s top rookie, Frazier is ranked the 20th best sophomore in the country heading into the 2003 season.
Defendis, who was the 2002 NY Gatorade Player of the Year after a standout season at Xaverian Brothers High School in New York City, was ranked as the 44th-best newcomer. DeFendis was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 41st round in 2002, but opted to attend Rutgers during the summer months.
Rutgers was picked to finish fourth in the conference by the Baseball America staff, behind Notre Dame, Boston College and Virginia Tech, respectively. Frazier was named to the Preseason All-Conference team and was rated the fourth-best prospect in the league. He was also voted as having the best raw power in the conference, as selected by a panel of Major League Baseball scouts. Defendis was also voted the fourth-best newcomer to the conference by the same panel.
The team will hold its first formal practice on Saturday, January 25, in preparation for the 2003 season. The 2003 Scarlet Knights welcome 16 newcomers to a team that won 35 games last season and advanced to the finals of the BIG EAST Championship before losing to Notre Dame, 3-2, in 10 innings. Returning, however, are several key everyday starters, including Frazier. He is joined in the outfield by junior Nick Cerulo (Woodbridge, NJ) (.322), while senior Steve Normane (Livingston, NJ) (.307) anchors the infield from his first base position. Also returning this season is fifth-year senior Matt Wolski (Hamilton, NJ), who missed all but two games in 2002 with a lower back injury. After undergoing surgery in May, Wolski is fully healthy and seeking a return to the form that produced back-to-back .300 seasons (.354 in 2000; .346 in 2001) as the team's starting second baseman. Junior Graig Badger (Union, NJ), who hit .289 as the team's leadoff hitter last season, also returns to the infield. The catching duties will fall to senior Alberto Vasquez (Jersey City, NJ), who hit .259 and displayed strong defensive skills in 41 games last season.
The pitching staff returns sophomore Jack Egbert (Teaneck, NJ) (3-1, 2.85), who fared well in the BIG EAST final vs. Notre Dame. Egbert will be joined by fifth-year senior David Santiago (Sayreville, NJ), who was 2-2, 3.72 overall last season, but posted a 1.72 ERA vs. conference opponents. Besides Egbert and Santiago, no returning hurler has pitched more than 15 collegiate innings, although red-shirt sophomores Dave Caffrey (Basking Ridge, NJ) and Tom Malafronte (Somerville, NJ) showed promise in limited action last spring. Sophomore Aaron Kalb (Middletown, NJ) had an impressive fall and will compete for a starting spot as well.
Junior college transfer Shaun Parker (Westampton, NJ), a left-handed pitcher, is experienced and leads the bevy of newcomers. Sophomore Colin Gaynor, a transfer from Northeastern University, adds depth at catcher, first base and in the outfield.
RU’s season opens on Friday, February 21, with the first of three games at Old Dominion University. The early portion of the schedule, challenging as usual, includes trips to Vanderbilt, Miami and No. 1 Georgia Tech.