Seven Former Pilots Named Players to Watch in 2016

jayson yano
2014 PGCBL Pitcher of the Year Jayson Yano among former Pilots to watch in 2016.

TUCSON, Ariz. – Seven former Newark Pilots were named Players to Watch by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, announced by the publication in its annual College Preview edition.

Here’s a breakdown of Newark alumni who were recognized:

Kevin Berge, RHP, Jr., St. John Fisher College – Division III Relief Pitcher to Watch
Berge was a workhorse out of the bullpen for the Cardinals and the Pilots in 2015. At Fisher, he finished his sophomore season with a 2.00 ERA – the lowest ERA among qualifying pitchers in the Empire 8 Conference – in 45.0 innings. As a result, the Vernon, NJ, native was named to the Empire 8 All-Conference Second Team and the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA)/Rawlings All-New York Region Third Team. The submarine righty logged 34.0 innings and a 3.70 ERA in 19 appearances for the Pilots. However, excluding Newark’s loss to Elmira on July 25, 2015, Berge’s ERA would have been a minute 1.85.

Travis Laitar, RHP, Sr., SUNY Cortland – Division III Relief Pitcher to Watch
Laitar capped off a stellar junior season with an NCAA Division III World Series Championship, and his SUNY Cortland Red Dragons enter 2016 as the No. 1 ranked team in Collegiate Baseball Newspaper’s preseason rankings. In the best season of his college career, the Fergus, Ontario, native registered a 1.86 ERA in 14 relief appearances, fanning 26 in 19.1 innings. Laitar earned State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) All-Conference Second Team and D3baseball.com All-New York Region Third Team accolades. As Newark’s closer in 2014, Laitar finished the summer with a 0.69 ERA. An All-PGCBL Second Team selection, he saved six games and fanned 20 in 13.0 innings.

Gabe Levanti, C/INF, Jr., Le Moyne College – Division II East Division Newcomer to Watch
Levanti transferred from Northeastern University to Le Moyne College this offseason, bringing him 25 minutes away from his hometown of Baldwinsville, N.Y. With the Dolphins, he’ll have the opportunity to play alongside 2015 Newark teammate Mark Martin. After recording 55 hits, 30 runs and 17 RBIs in two seasons at Division I Northeastern, Levanti is expected to provide plenty of support to a Dolphins lineup that hit only .248 a year ago. Over the summer, he batted .250 with 18 hits, 12 runs and six RBIs in 22 games as a Pilot. He also showed his versatility on defense, seeing time at catcher, second base and in the outfield.

Robert Robbins, RHP, Sr., Stevens Institute of Technology – Division III Pitcher to Watch
Robbins finished second only to Berge in the Empire 8 Conference last season with a 2.05 ERA. The 6-foot-4 right-handed hurler also led a lethal Stevens rotation with 62 strikeouts, as he fanned at least seven in eight of his 10 starts. Originally from Tallahassee, Fla., Robbins was an E8 All-Conference First Teamer and D3baseball All-New York Region Third Teamer as a junior. As a Pilot in 2014, Robbins went 3-2 with 21 strikeouts in eight total appearances on the mound. He also earned PGCBL Pitcher of the Week after tossing seven scoreless innings in a win over Utica on June 14, 2014.

Cody Wiktorski, INF, Sr., St. John Fisher College – Division III Second Baseman to Watch
Wiktorski was included on Collegiate Baseball Newspaper’s list of Division III players to watch for the second straight year. As a sophomore, he was named the Empire 8’s First-Team All-Conference third baseman, and last season, he was added to the First Team at designated hitter. In those two seasons, the Penfield, N.Y., product has a .364 batting average with 39 extra-base hits. In the 2015 summer season, Wiktorski was named a First-Team All-PGCBL selection at shortstop. His 26 extra-base hits marked a new PGCBL single-season record while his 18 doubles and 91 total bases – both Newark team records – rank fourth and tied for sixth, respectively, in league history.

Jayson Yano, RHP/1B, Sr., Stevens Institute of Technology – Division III Utility Player to Watch
Not only has Yano proven to be dangerous with a stick in his hands, the Foothill Ranch, Calif., native is just as dominate on the mound. He became the first player in Empire 8 Conference history to take home both Pitcher and Player of the Year awards to go along with his D3baseball Second-Team All-America accolades last spring. He led Stevens in hits (52), doubles (13), RBIs (37) and batting average (.344). Yano also went 6-3 with a 2.09 ERA and 61 strikeouts, while pacing the conference in opponents’ batting average (.217). In the summer of 2014, Yano became the second Newark Pilot to win PGCBL Pitcher of the Year, going 6-2 with a 1.35 ERA, 41 punchouts and five complete games.

Conrad Ziemendorf, OF, Sr., SUNY Cortland – Division III Outfielder to Watch
Ziemendorf’s mantle is crowded with all of the trophies and awards the Penfield, N.Y., native earned last spring. While guiding the Red Dragons to their first-ever NCAA Division III National Championship, Ziemendorf garnered SUNYAC Player of the Year, D3baseball.com All-America Honorable Mention, ABCA/Rawlings and D3baseball.com All-New York Region First Team, D-III World Series All-Tournament Team and World Series Most Outstanding Player. As a junior, he batted .369 with 59 hits, 47 runs scored and 46 more batted in. His stint in Newark was shortened due to injury; he played in 11 games in 2014. However, despite just receiving 24 at-bats, Ziemendorf was tied for first in the PGCBL with three triples.