Frank Leoni enters his seventh year at the helm of the William and Mary Tribe baseball program in 2012. Loaded with talent, the Tribe has aspirations of contending for a CAA Championship.
The 2011 season was highlighted by the play of the Tribe in
the CAA conference schedule. The College
won seven of its 10 conference series, posting a record of 16-14. Of its seven CAA series wins, four of those
came on the road at Old Dominion, Delaware, Northeastern, and Towson. The four road series wins set a school
record, while the 16 CAA victories tied for the most in the Leoni era, tying
the 2006 team. Pitching was once again
the strength of W&M in 2011, as the team posted the third-ERA in the conference
(4.43) and led the league in opponent batting average (.266).
Individually, Logan Billbrough became the first Tribe hurler
to be named CAA Pitcher of the Year after his fantastic senior season. The Miami, Florida, native was dominant
this season, leading the conference with a 2.58 ERA, 97.2 innings pitched, and
105 strikeouts. Billbrough became just the third different W&M
pitcher to strike out more than 100 batters in a season, with his 105 K's
ranking fourth all-time on the Tribe's single-season list. After graduating, Billbrough signed a free
agent contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, becoming the 10th
former Tribe player to sign a professional contract under the tutelage of
Along with Billbrough earning
First-Team All-CAA honors, sophomore Brett Koehler and senior Jonathan Slattery
also earned all-conference recognition.
Koehler was named second-team after leading the team with eight saves,
while Slattery was named third-team after collecting 40 RBIs and scoring 35
The 2010 season saw the Tribe accomplish a great deal, highlighted
by Leoni winning his 400th career game with a 10-9 win over Longwood on
April 20, 2010. With the win, Leoni notched his 134th victory at
William and Mary. Previously, Leoni won 266 games as the head coach at
Rhode Island before leaving URI for William and Mary as the Rams
all-time winningest coach. Also last season, Leoni was inducted into
the Rhode Island Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. At the
induction, Leoni was presented with the Ben Mondor Award, recognizing
his lifetime service to Rhode Island baseball.
As a team in 2010, the Tribe posted some impressive numbers. The
College’s pitching staff posted an ERA of 4.87, which ranked second in
the CAA and 52nd nationally out of 292 teams. The 4.87 earned run
average was the lowest for the College since 2004. Defensively, the
Green and Gold posted a fielding percentage of .969, the best in the
CAA. The Tribe also continued its dominance at Plumeri Park, posting a
record of 24-7 (.774). The 24 victories were the second-most in one
season at the Park and the .774 winning percentage was also the second
best all-time at Plumeri.
Individually, sophomore Matt Davenport recorded one of the finest
seasons in the program’s history. Davenport set the school record for
ERA (1.96) while posting a record of 8-2. Davenport became the first
Tribe pitcher since 2002 to earn First-Team All-CAA honors, and also
went on to garner First-Team ABCA/Rawlings All-East Region and
Second-Team VaSID All-State accolades in 2010. Also earning All-CAA
recognition were sophomore Stephen Arcure and freshman John Farrell.
Arcure was named second-team all-conference after leading the team with a
.339 average, while Farrell was named to the CAA All-Rookie team after
setting the Tribe’s freshman record for saves with six.
During the 2009 campaign, the Tribe had many great moments,
highlighted by Leoni’s 100th win at William and Mary on April 7, 2009.
In the 2-1 victory over Liberty at Plumeri Park, Leoni became the
fastest coach in W&M history to reach the 100-win milestone.
Another highlight for the Tribe in 2009 was its play down the stretch.
In a stretch of games from April 12 to May 10, the Tribe went 12-3,
winning series against James Madison, Towson, and Longwood. Included in
those games was also, arguably, the College’s best win of the season, a
14-10 come-from-behind win over Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. The Green
and Gold scored six runs in the bottom of the ninth to win its first
game against the Hokies in 18 years.
Individually, Senior Rob Nickle led a group of five players that
earned all-conference recognition in 2009, being named to the All-CAA
Second Team, while classmate Tyler Stampone and junior Kevin Landry were
named to the third team. Freshmen Matt Davenport and Chris Forsten were
each chosen for the All-CAA Rookie team for their fine freshman
After the season, the College saw three of its players move on to
the professional ranks. Junior Kevin Landry was drafted by the
Baltimore Orioles in the 21st round of the MLB Draft, while both seniors
Tyler Stampone and Jeff Jones signed free agent contracts with the
Orioles and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, respectively.
The 2008 team surpassed all expectations in piecing together a 36-21
record, only one win shy of tying the school record for victories in a
season, and sending four players into the professional ranks in the MLB
draft. The Tribe posted an out- standing 26-6 mark at Plumeri Park, and
finished fourth in the Colonial Athletic Association with a 16-13
record. Returning to the CAA Tournament for the first time since 2004,
the Tribe handed No. 1-seed UNC Wilmington only its fifth loss of the
year to a conference team, and was one of the last four teams standing
in the semifinal round. One of the nation’s most dangerous teams at the
plate, W&M finished the year ranked third in the NCAA with a .343
batting average, and also led the CAA in fielding defense for the second
year in a row.
Commensurate with the team’s success, several players had
outstanding individual seasons in 2008 as well. Mike Sheridan followed
up his 2007 campaign by leading the team and the league in batting, and
was rewarded with third-team All-American honors from the ABCA and
Louisville Slugger, in addition to being named W&M’s first VaSID
State Player of the Year, first-team all-region, All-ECAC, All-CAA,
all-state, and to the Wallace Award Watch List, Howser Trophy Watch
List, and the CAA all-tournament team. Sheridan would go on to become
the first of four Tribe players taken in the MLB Draft, being selected
by the Tampa Bay Rays with the first pick of the fifth round.
Along with Sheridan, both catcher Tim Park and outfielder Ben Guez
earned All-American honors, giving the Tribe three All-Americans in one
season for the first time ever. Park was a third-team selection by
Louisville Slugger and made three Player of the Year watch lists, while
Guez was tabbed by the Jewish Sports Review with first-team honors and
was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 19th round.
In 2007, the squad posted a 29-25 mark and boasted a 21-10 record at
Plumeri Park. Additionally, the Tribe led the Colonial Athletic
Association in team batting average (.319) and fielding percentage
(.969). The season also marked a milestone for Leoni, who earned his
300th career win when the Tribe defeated Towson, 6-0, on March 18.
In addition to the success experienced by the team collectively, a
number of individuals posted impressive seasons under Leoni’s tutelage.
Leading the group in 2007 was Greg Sexton, who was selected to five
All-America teams after finishing the season ranked second nationally
with a .455 batting average. Honored as the CAA co-Player of the Year,
Sexton was drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays with the first pick of
the 10th round. The selection marked the fifth consecutive season in
which Leoni had a player drafted, as Joe Kantakevich was chosen by the
Seattle Mariners in the 13th round in 2006 and Rhode Island sent at
least one player to the professional ranks in each of Leoni’s last three
A hallmark of Leoni-coached team is tenacious, fundamentally sound
hitting. After earning CAA All-Freshman Team accolades in 2006, first
baseman Mike Sheridan continued to improve with Leoni’s guidance and was
honored as the 2007 NCAA statistical champion for the toughest player
to strikeout. With just five strikeouts in 209 at-bats, he finished the
year with a ratio of just one strike- out per every 41.8 at-bats. The
impressive figure represents the nation’s best mark since 1999. Sheridan
is the second player to accomplish the feat under Leoni’s tutelage. In
2001, All-America shortstop Mike LaBarbera led the nation with just five
strikeouts in 198 at-bats.
During his initial season in Williamsburg, Leoni guided a relatively
inexperienced W&M club to a 23-29 record overall and an 11-19 mark
in CAA play. Despite the modest record, the College improved
consistently throughout the season and finished the year by winning 10
of its final 13 contests, missing the CAA playoffs by just a single
game. During the impressive stretch run, the Green and Gold claimed
three of its final four conference series and was playing as well as any
team in the league.
In addition to rebuilding the product on the field, Leoni has been
instrumental in a number of upgrades to Plumeri Park. While the facility
already ranked among the best in the CAA, the minor renovations have
enhanced the park. Among the upgrades were natural grass base lines on
each foul line, a 10-foot artificial turf halo added behind the home
plate area, bi-level wooden benches in the dugouts, stadium padding on
the backstop, and most recently concrete padding added to the covered
hitting area under the 3B bleachers.
Leoni came to the College after a long and successful stint as the
head coach at the University of Rhode Island, where he remains the
winningest coach in the school’s history. A URI graduate, Leoni guided
the Rams for 13 seasons and led the program to unprecedented success. In
addition to compiling a 146-118-1 record during his final five seasons,
he led the squad to two consecutive Atlantic 10 regular-season
championships and three consecutive Atlantic 10 East Division
championships. In 2005, Rhode Island posted a 34-21 mark and earned the
program’s initial NCAA Tournament berth after claiming the school’s
first ever A-10 title. Under Leoni’s watch, the Rams earned at least 24
wins in each of his last seven seasons and compiled a conference record
of 54-18 from 2003-05.
In 2004, Leoni led the Rams to a then school-record 35 victories and
a 20-4 mark in A-10 play, becoming just the second school in league
history to win 20 conference games. His accomplishments did not go
unrecognized, as he was named the A-10 Coach of the Year in 2003 and
2004 as well as New England Coach of the Year in 2004.
“We are really excited to have Frank Leoni as our new baseball
coach,” W&M Athletics Director Terry Driscoll said at the time of
Leoni’s hiring in August, 2005. “His 13 years at the University of Rhode
Island demonstrated his ability to overcome the challenges necessary to
build a program to an NCAA-caliber competitor. In that same period, his
teams demonstrated tremendous academic success. Together, his academic
and athletic success makes him a terrific fit for the College of William
and Mary and its baseball program.”
“I am extremely honored to become the next head baseball coach at
and Mary,” Leoni said at the time of his hiring. “This is a tremendous
opportunity, and I thank Terry Driscoll and the entire William and Mary
community for their confidence. I am excited to get started and to build
upon the tradition of William and Mary baseball.”
“My plan for Tribe Baseball is to build a program in which every
student- athlete, coach, administrator and alumnus feels a strong sense
of ownership and pride,” Leoni said. “In the long-term, my goal is for
William and Mary to become the model baseball program in the CAA - one
which enjoys exceptional on-field success without compromising the
educational mission of its student- athletes.”
Coupled with his team’s success, Leoni oversaw the development of a
number of players who continued their baseball careers in the
professional ranks. Four of Leoni’s players were drafted from 2003-05,
while two others signed professional contracts.
In 2005, pitcher Zack Zuercher was drafted in the ninth round by the
Saint Louis Cardinals. Additionally, third baseman Mike Rainville and
closer Mick Lefort signed free agent contracts with the Tampa Bay Devil
Rays and Chicago Cubs, respectively. Following the 2004 season,
second-team All-America first baseman Dan Batz was a sixth-round draft
pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers. That came on the heels of pitchers Reid
Willett (Chicago Cubs, 21st round) and Jared Trout (Oakland Athletics,
28th round) getting drafted following the 2003 season. Another of
Leoni’s top recruits at URI, Stephen Homes, was selected by the New York
Mets during the fifth round of the 2006 MLB draft. In 2001, shortstop
Mike LaBarbera earned All-America status and signed with the Montreal
While the accomplishments on the field are impressive, Leoni’s
commitment to developing student-athletes who excel in the classroom is
also notable. At Rhode Island, he coached two District I Academic
All-Americans and four Academic All-Conference selections during his
final three years. The tradition of success has continued at W&M, as
Sexton and Jeff Lunardi ‘05 have each earned Academic All-District III
acclaim. Additionally, the ‘05 URI team and ‘06 W&M squad were
recognized among the top 10 percent of all D-I programs for the Academic
Progress Rating (APR).
Not only was Leoni a presence on the field, he had a positive impact
on the Rhode Island community. He ran several clinics for local
children, and his summer camps were among the most popular in New
The Cranston, Rhode Island, native was an A-10 All-Academic
performer as a shortstop for the Rams and held six school records at the
conclusion of the 1991 season. He earned a bachelor of science degree
in accounting in 1990 and completed work on his master’s degree in
Business Administration from URI in 2003.
Leoni and his family live in Williamsburg.