Slinger Shows Impeccable Timing: Stock Report 3/31

The new New England Baseball Complex allowed for Tufts and Bowdoin to play this weekend. (Courtesy of
The new New England Baseball Complex allowed for Tufts and Bowdoin to play this weekend. (Courtesy of

After the first game of the weekend, Bowdoin was feeling good about stealing their series against Tufts because Henry Van Zant ’15 had just led them to a game one victory. Then the strength of the Tufts pitching staff took over. First it was Andrew David ’16 going all nine innings without allowing one run as Tufts won comfortably 6-0.  The real big story, however, was Kyle Slinger ’15 shaking off an early season injury and returning to the mound for the Monday rubber game.

Like we thought might happen, Tufts’ manager John Casey took advantage of the two extra days for Slinger to recover. However, when Aaron Rosen ’15 hit a solo homer to lead off the game, it looked like Slinger might not be quite ready to go. Then he recovered and allowed no more runs the rest of the way, leading Tufts to a 10-1 win. In the top of the 7th with the score 5-1 Tufts, Slinger allowed two base runners, and the top of the lineup was coming up. Casey stuck with his stud, and Slinger struck out Rosen before getting a fly out to get out of the jam.

The series win for Tufts means they remain atop the East. Their pitching is right up there with Wesleyan for the best in the league, and they should only get healthier. The Jumbos have next weekend off from NESCAC play before heading to Trinity.

Stock Up

 Catcher Bryan Egan ’15 (Tufts)

Slinger’s offensive counterpart yesterday was Egan, who went 3-4 with a homer and four RBI. The home run came in the 6th inning and was a two run shot that put the Jumbos up 5-1. Petry didn’t do much in the other games this weekend, but he does hold a season OBP of .492. Though some of it is because Tufts has played in a lot of games, Egan leads the NESCAC in RBI with 22. The senior was a part-time reserve last year behind All-NESCAC performer Nick Cutsumpas ’14. It is great to see him step up in his final year and become a crucial part of the Jumbos’ offense.

Starting Pitcher Henry Van Zant ’15 (Bowdoin)

The senior was sensational in the opening game of the the series between Tufts and Bowdoin. He went all seven innings allowing only one unearned run on only four hits. Through the first three innings he faced the minimum of nine hitters. Unlike usual, Van Zant did not strike out a lot of hitters, but he did a great job of keeping the ball on the ground. The Jumbo offense has the second highest ground out/fly out ratio in the NESCAC (more exact fly ball to ground ball ratios are not available), and on Friday the ball left the ground eight times counting hits and fly outs. The one run that Tufts scored was not Van Zant’s fault at all. Bryan Egan ’15 reached second on an error by shortstop Sean Mullaney ’17. After Egan advanced on another groundball, Cody McCallum ’16 reached on an infield single with two outs to score Egan.

Utility Adam Regensburg ’18 (Williams)

In his first three games in conference play, Regensburg went 6-11 and had two hits in every game against Middlebury. Working out of the two-hole, he hit a home run in the first game and stole two bases in the final one. Regensburg also has a season long OBP of .450 which is perfect for that position in the lineup. Besides that bat, he played a different position in each  game. In the first game he started in right field, second base in the second, and left field for the third. So basically Regensburg is the NESCAC equivalent of Ben Zobrist, someone who can play lots of positions and provide offense as well. Sabermetricians have been calling Zobrist criminally underrated for so long that he probably became overrated somewhere along the way. Check back in two years to decide whether Regensburg has become overrated by then. Until then, he looks like a great freshmen player for a Williams team that got a huge sweep this weekend.

Stock Down


It’s never a good combination to be both unlucky and not very good, and that is what Middlebury has been so far. The Panthers got walked off on in three consecutive games down in Arizona with the final one coming at the hands of Williams in the series opener. Some of the freshmen like Brendan Donahoe ’18 and Raj Palekar ’18 have made good first impressions, but the pitching is such a mess. The Panthers are now 0-9, and their schedule is front-loaded with NESCAC games so that nine of their next 11 games come against Amherst, Hamilton and Williams. When their first win comes is not easy to tell, but the odds are that it won’t be this coming weekend on the road against Amherst.

Mother Nature

For goodness sake, get it together, weather. Maybe I’m soft for complaining about the weather, but I don’t care. Whatever happened to the saying ‘March comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb?’ It was snowing in Brunswick, Maine for a good few hours yesterday. Granted, it fortunately wasn’t really sticking, but the snow banks weren’t exactly dissipating either. Baseball is a sport best played in the summer of course, but we don’t have that luxury in college baseball. The weather forecast is decent for the next week, but I’m looking for some serious improvement ASAP. Nature, I really want to be able to watch a home baseball game at some point this year. Please make that happen.

Start your Engines (Sort of): Weekend Preview 3/27

Middlebury and Williams open their conference season in sunshine and heat. (Courtesy of Matthew Dickerson)
Middlebury and Williams open their conference season in sunshine and heat. (Courtesy of Matthew Dickerson)

We knew all the way back in February that the snow was going to have an impact on the NESCAC schedule, and sure enough, two of the four opening series have been moved back to May. Middlebury and Williams will play in Arizona unaffected by the weather while Tufts and Bowdoin will play their games at the New England Baseball Complex in Northborough, Massachusetts. The Jumbos and Polar Bears are playing a doubleheader today before taking a couple of days off and playing the final game on Monday night.

Two to Watch

1. Starting Pitcher Tim Superko ’17 (Tufts): Three starts into the season and Superko has looked fantastic in two but got tagged in the other. One of his good starts was also against St. Joseph, who Tufts beat 20-0 so take that one with a large lump of salt. Superko’s strength is his ability to strikeout hitters. Last year, he went six innings and allowed only one run against Bowdoin in a Tufts’ win. The sophomore has some of the best pure stuff in the league. Questions about the health of Kyle Slinger ’15 and others means Superko is the only Tufts starter we know for sure will start this weekend according to Manager John Casey. That makes his start all the more important. A banged up staff needs him to go deep into his game, something that he was not great at as a freshman.

2. Outfielder Luke Pierce ’15 (Williams): The Williams offense has not gotten into gear yet mostly because of the struggles of a few key players like Pierce early on. The Ephs graduated a couple of their big boppers from a year ago, and Pierce is a more important piece than he was a year ago. Though he has one home run, his average is .217 and he is yet to draw a walk. He has only struck out three times in 23 at-bats so he is not getting overpowered or anything like that. Perhaps he has simply been putting too much pressure on himself in the early going. The slump will end soon enough, and the Ephs are hoping that this weekend is when Pierce busts out.

The Picks

Williams (3-3, 0-0) vs Middlebury (0-6, 0-0): 4:00 PM Friday (Thomas Murphy ’15 vs. Eric Truss ’15) , 2:00 PM Saturday (Luke Rodino ’17 vs. Cooper Byrne ’15) , and 5:00 PM Saturday (Dan Smith ’16 vs. TBD) in Tucson, Arizona.

Expected high for Tucson tomorrow is 92 degrees. Go ahead and let that one sink in a little.

As for baseball, the Panthers are still trying to get into the win column while Williams has looked a little shaky so far. Both staffs are riddled with question marks, and Thomas Murphy ’15 is the only starter for either team that projects as an above average pitcher. Murphy won his first start after allowing one ER in seven innings, but he had to scatter nine hits along the way. Both Dan Smith ’16 and Luke Rodino ’17 struggled in their first starts, and while they should start again this weekend, other options like Nate Michalski ’17 give the Ephs some flexibility. The struggles of the Ephs pale in comparison to those of the Panther pitchers. The Middlebury team ERA is 13.92 right now. Why they are 0-6 can be summed up in that one number.

Coach Bob Smith has yet to announce his third starter, but the ball will likely be handed to first-year Rob Erickson ’18 after a positive relief appearance on Tuesday. The big righty toss seven innings of three-run ball before tiring and allowing three runs in the bottom of the ninth against Grace University. Nevertheless, if he can toss like he did over the first seven innings of that outing, Erickson has a chance to shut down the Williams offense in Game Three. That being said, there’s no guarantee that Erickson will even be tabbed the starter.

Both offenses should put up numbers, and it will be fun to see how Dylan Sinnickson ’15 hits against NESCAC pitching. In the end Williams has more to lose, if that makes sense. Dropping a game or two to Middlebury would spell deep trouble for making the playoffs. For the Panthers, the offense will have to go off in one game to overcome their pitching.

Prediction: Williams wins two of three


 Projected Starters: Friday 2:30 PM (Tim Superko ’17 vs. Henry Van Zant ’15), Friday 4:30 PM ( TBD vs. Harry Ridge ’16), Monday 7:00 PM (TBD vs. Erik Jacobsen ’15)

If you get angry when the ball gets put into play and prefer when fielders simply act as cheerleaders for the pitchers, then the (potential) matchup of Superko and Van Zant is the game for you. As noted above, Superko is a strikeout whiz, and Van Zant is just as good in that department. Van Zant has the stuff to be great this year after seeing his junior year mostly wiped out by injury. Before that, he was overshadowed by his older brother Oliver Van Zant ’13, one of Bowdoin’s best pitchers in recent memory. Be assured that Van Zant will come out for this start firing gas.

Besides Superko, the other starters for Tufts are up in the air which could end up leaving a golden opportunity for Bowdoin. Harry Ridge ’16 and Erik Jacobsen ’15 both have a lot of experience and will battle the Tufts lineup. We might see Kyle Slinger ’15 in the Monday game because of the extra couple days of recovery.

The Jumbo offense has picked up pretty much where it was last year. The defining characteristic for them is how often they walk. So far, Tufts has walked 66 times while striking out only 73 times. As a team Tufts has an OBP of .449. Matt Moser ’16 is a star at shortstop with a slashline of .358/.426/.396. The one thing that Tufts does not do much is hit for power as Tommy O’Hara ’18 has their only homer all year.

After a breakout season in 2014, Chad Martin ’16 is showing his power again and has an impressive .585 slugging percentage. Peter Cimini ’16 has been slowed by a leg injury which has put the outfield positions in flux so far for Bowdoin. The best news for Bowdoin so far in the hitting department is that shortstop Sean Mullaney ’17 has an OBP of .462 after hitting below the Mendoza line last year. If he can keep that up, he combines with Aaron Rosen ’15 for one of the best middle infields in the league.

The Polar Bears are lucky to catch Tufts at this point in the season, and much of the following prediction is based off of those injuries to Tufts.

Prediction: Bowdoin wins two of three

Predicted NESCAC Baseball Standings and Tournament Results

Wesleyan captured the program's first ever NESCAC title in 2014. We think they get their second one this year. (Courtesy of Tufts Sports Information/
Wesleyan captured the program’s first ever NESCAC title in 2014. We think they get their second one this year. (Courtesy of Tufts Sports Information/

Time to put our money where our mouth is and give y’all some actual predictions for the season. As Jonah Keri says, remember that all these predictions are based entirely on emotion and use no analysis or logic. If your team is ranked low then it means that I hate them for no good reason.

Predicted records are for NESCAC games only

West East
Team Record Team Record
Wesleyan 11-1 Tufts 8-4
Amherst 8-4 Colby 7-5
Williams 4-8 Bowdoin 6-6
Hamilton 4-8 Bates 5-7
Middlebury 3-9 Trinity 4-8

The first thing that jumps out is that Wesleyan is well above everybody else in my mind. The Cardinals went 10-2 a year ago and have virtually everybody back. They aren’t a team of future major leaguers so somebody in the West (probably Amherst) will beat them once this year, but besides that expect them to cruise. Amherst will take a small step back but still make the playoffs comfortably ahead of the morass at the bottom of the division. I think Williams will take a step back because their offense will not carry them like it did last year. Also, Hamilton and Middlebury should be better this year which will make those harder wins for the Ephs.

In the East I expect things to be a dogfight from top to bottom. Tufts would be more separated from everybody else if not for some questions surrounding their health right now (more on this tomorrow). I like Colby to barely grab that second spot because of the strength of their top three starters. Bowdoin and Bates are going to be right there at the end, too, I think. Finally, I expect Trinity to look much better than they did in 2014 but think they might end up not having the results in the standings. If we are being honest, the East is much more up in the air than the West, and every team has a chance to make the playoffs.

NESCAC Tournament Predictions

So Colby, Tufts, Wesleyan and Amherst will make the NESCAC tournament. Going into how every game will play out is like submitting your March Madness bracket in January. I would look silly doing it. What I will predict is that just like last year Tufts and Wesleyan will be the final two teams standing. Though the Jumbos deeper starting rotation gives them a potential edge, I think the Cardinals end up repeating as champions. So yes, I’m sorry if you are disappointed that I am not going out on a limb and calling any real upsets. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that I also picked Kentucky to win March Madness. What can I say, I like the favorites.

Cardinals Start Where They Ended: Baseball Power Rankings 3/25

The NESCAC conference season is starting Friday, albeit in a somewhat lesser fashion than usual because of the weather. Still, with the beginning of conference games upon us, now is a good time as ever to Power Rank the teams. You will get a good idea of our impressions for every team from this. Then check back in later today to see our predictions for how the teams will finish in the standings and who will make the NCAA tournament.

All records are from 2015

1. Wesleyan (8-4, 0-0)

A year ago we didn’t expect Wesleyan to end up winning the NESCAC, but now we will be more surprised if they DON’T win it. The offense led by Wesleyan’s all-time hits leader Donnie Cimino ’15 and CoSIDA All-American Andrew Yin ’15 is stacked across the board. Nick Cooney ’15 and Gavin Pittore ’16 anchor the pitching staff. This team only has one weakness that we can point out: pitching depth. Jeff Blout ’14, Chris Law ’14 and Jimmy Hill ’14 combined to throw 117 innings – 31 percent of Wesleyan’s total – last season. Four of the top five pitchers in terms of innings are back but after that top four there is some uncertainty. Of course, Wesleyan’s problem is peanuts compared to those that other contenders have to deal with.

2. Tufts (9-3, 0-0)

The Jumbos have gotten off to a good start once again this year. Unlike the other NESCAC schools that fly all the way south to either Florida or Arizona, Tufts travels to North Carolina and Virginia. Connor McDavitt ’15 is getting on-base at a nifty .458 OBP to get things going at the top of the lineup. The numbers for the pitching staff are gaudy which gives pause about the level of competition that the Jumbos have faced, but this is also the most accomplished staff in the league. Tufts will face off in a big series against Bowdoin starting Friday.

3. Amherst (6-6, 0-0)

The Jeffs remain somewhat of a mystery after their spring trip. Their split of a doubleheader against #4 St. Thomas is an indication of how good the Jeffs can be. Ace John Cook ’15 was excellent in that start going 7.1 innings and a solo home run was the only offense St. Thomas managed against him. However, the Jeffs also gave up twelve runs in consecutive seven inning games. New shortstop Harry Roberson ’17 is hitting the ball great with an average well above .400, but he also already has seven errors, an untenable amount at this point. This team might not be as deep as past years which could ultimately doom them in the NESCAC race.

4. Colby (6-1, 0-0)

The Mules stock has gone up the most from the beginning of the season. They are still in the midst of their trip to Florida, but the early returns have been very promising. Unfortunately, we only have the statistics for two of their games, but their scoring differential has been great. Their offense has scored above 10 runs in five of their seven games thus far. Given that this was the worst offense in the NESCAC a year ago and they lost several key pieces, that could spell great news for the Mules. We won’t see them in NESCAC action until next weekend, however.

5. Bates (5-3, 0-0)

We have barely seen the Bobcats in action over the past month, and we still know very little about how their rotation is going to shake out. Because they have had so few games, their starters have only been going a few innings before giving way to their deep bullpen. A good sign for the Bobcats’ offense is that they are averaging the second most walks per game, something that they were very good at a year ago as well. Evan Czopek ’16 has been fantastic thus far in the lineup.

6. Bowdoin (5-8, 0-0)

The Polar Bears struggled through a somewhat uneven spring break, but they also faced some injury problems as well as a hard stretch of opponents. The key for them, as we said before, is finding a way to hit all the way through their lineup. Chad Martin ’16 has hit three home runs already in the middle of the lineup and has cemented himself as one of the premier power hitters in the league. Henry Van Zant ’15 allowed five runs but also struck out 13 batters with no walks in his last outing in Florida. If he becomes a fully fledged ace, then the Polar Bears will be thinking playoffs.

7. Trinity (7-5, 0-0)

The Bantams spring trip started out great with a five-game winning streak before they dropped five out of seven games to finish on a down note. The main problem for them on the second half of their trip was the offense averaging only 2.5 runs per game in the final six games. Once again, none of the Bantams showed much power as the team didn’t hit any home runs on their trip, but the impact of freshman Brendan Pierce ’18 in the lineup is promising. Some players like Daniel Pidgeon ’15 are bound to rebound from a slow start and help the Bantam offense recover at least somewhat. Also, note how tightly-packed the 4-7 spots are. The East, behind Tufts, remains wide open and these teams are basically interchangeable at this point.

8. Williams (3-3, 0-0)

The Ephs only started their spring trip this past weekend so they are still a little behind some of the other teams at this point. Besides Jack Cloud ’17, none of the Ephs main hitters have hit well thus far, and the back end of the rotation has not looked great thus far either. The Ephs’ three wins have come against mediocre competition. Still, the Ephs can make those worries mostly go away with a dominant performance in their opening series against Middlebury.

9. Hamilton (6-5, 0-0)

We would have put the Continentals higher if they hadn’t dropped a doubleheader to Colby on Tuesday. The two games exposed the lack of quality starters for Hamilton behind Jjay Lane ’15. Cole Dreyfuss ’16 is 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in his two starts so far so he could end up being a critical piece for Hamilton. The Colby starters basically shut down the Hamilton lineup besides Joe Jensen ’15. Hamilton will not open their NESCAC season until April 10 when they travel to Middlebury so they will remain in the background for a little while.

10. Middlebury (0-6, 0-0)

Still searching for their first win, the Panthers have seen consecutive late inning leads slip away the last two games in their opponents’ final at bat. Dylan Sinnickson ’15 has been a fun story so far, but Middlebury is not going to see results on the field unless their pitchers start getting opponents out more consistently. The team ERA is an almost unfathomable 13.92 at this point. That number must, and certainly will, come way down. Still, Joe MacDonald ’16, who is expected to basically be an innings-eater (disclosure: Joe is the co-founder of Nothing but NESCAC) is the only pitcher with an ERA below 7.00 at this point. The good news is that the lineup is hitting better than last year with Raj Palekar ’18 enjoying a torrid start to his career, even though some of the guys expected to carry the load, MacDonald included, are off to slow starts.

Putting a Bow on the 2014-2015 Basketball Season

NESCAC fans were great all season, and kept up the devotion all the way through this Sweet 16 game between Bates and Trinity at Babson College. (Courtesy of Mark Box/Bates College Athletics)
NESCAC fans were great all season, and kept up the devotion all the way through this Sweet 16 game between Bates and Trinity at Babson College. (Courtesy of Mark Box/Bates College Athletics)

While I don’t like to play favorites, basketball has to be my favorite NESCAC sport to both watch and write about. Maybe it’s the small rosters and long season that allow for story lines to develop like they can’t in football and baseball. Or maybe it’s the fact that the Bowdoin gym allows me the opportunity to sit so close to the action that I can literally touch opponents while yelling at them.

So before I go any further, I want to apologize to any players who I jeered over the course of the season. I assure you it was nothing personal, just business.

This season was a fantastic one to cover because of how unpredictable it was.  Take a look back at our Power Rankings from December 12, and you start to get an idea of how some teams’ fortunes rose and fell over the course of the season. The axis of Amherst, Williams, and Middlebury was blasted to smithereens from every direction. This was the first season since 2001-2002 that a team other than one of those three finished atop the regular season standings. Having none of them even hosting a home NESCAC playoff game would have been unthinkable just 12 months ago. Whether this year was a fluke or represents a sea change in the league is still to be determined, but the gobs of talent on Amherst would indicate that the Jeffs, at least, are likely to be back on top soon enough.

Though Wesleyan ended up winning the NESCAC tournament, there is no doubt that Trinity was the best NESCAC team this season. They were 9-1 in the league and had the #1 seed sewn up before the final weekend even happened. The only two games they lost to NESCAC opponents went down to the final minute and the Bantams had a chance to tie both of them right at the end. In the NCAA tournament they overcame a slow start in their opening round game and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen where they controlled the game the entire way to beat Bates. They honestly should have made the Final Four but ended up blowing a late lead to Babson. The Bantams didn’t play pretty and they were too balanced to have one player truly stand out.

While the league overall was deeper than ever, what the NESCAC lacked was the bona fide superstars that usually dot the landscape. The departure of talent from the NESCAC between 2013-2014 and this year was immense, and that left a vacuum. In the early going Graham Safford ’15 and Dan Wohl ’15 were the two best all-around players. They faltered somewhat as the season went along, and the balance of teams like Wesleyan and Trinity came to the forefront. Injuries to Chris Hudnut ’16 and Hunter Sabety ’17 cut their excellent seasons short and also hurt the chances of Colby or Tufts making a run at a NESCAC championship.

Then almost out of nowhere Lucas Hausman ’16 started scoring like he was James Harden using a set of moves to confound opposing defenses. Though critics said that he failed to contribute in other ways, Hausman was the clear choice for Player of the Year by the time the dust settled. Even though Bowdoin ended up missing the NCAA tournament, Hausman led them to a big home playoff win over Williams by scoring 37 points. In the process he decisively ripped away the POY trophy away from Wohl who, unfortunately, struggled offensively in his final college game.

I also want to celebrate how NESCAC students got behind their teams this year. NESCAC students are probably rightly viewed as apathetic towards their sports for the most part. While some marquee games might get students away from Netflix and into the stands, most games take place in front of very few supporters, aside from the parents of the players. This year fans got behind a number of teams. Up in Maine the Bates fans took their always fantastic atmosphere to another level while Colby and Bowdoin saw improvements from what is usually a mostly non-existent atmosphere.

Trinity and Wesleyan are also not known for their fan support at basketball contests, but by the end of the season both had significant amounts of fans at their games. The NESCAC semifinal between Wesleyan and Trinity was a back and forth affair not only on the court but also in the crowd. Ultimately Wesleyan prevailed in both contests, and a day later the Cardinal fans rushed the Bantams’ home court to celebrate their newly crowned NESCAC champions. That the uptick in fan support came in a wide open NESCAC season is not a coincidence.

Because of their massive fan support and surprise run to the Sweet 16, no team and school better epitomized this season than Bates. The Bobcats went 1-9 in conference a year ago, but we knew that they had much more talent than that returning this year. Their sweep of Colby and Bowdoin in December not only put the NESCAC on notice about this team but also how hard it would be to win at Bates. My trip to Alumni gym for that December Bates-Bowdoin game remains a personal highlight for the season because of how live that Bates crowd was. Though my beloved Bears lost by 20, I had to admire how loud the gym got during a crucial second half run that was punctuated by two big dunks.

The raucous home crowd was a huge reason why Bates finished the regular season 12-0 in Lewiston. Bates fans were shocked when Wesleyan beat the Bobcats in NESCAC tournament because Alumni Gym had taken on such a sense of invincibility. When Bates got into the NCAA tournament, the vast majority of Bates students watched on campus for the first two rounds before making the trip to Babson for the Sweet Sixteen. While I was not at the game, all accounts and pictures show an enormous Bobcat crowd. Even though Bates fell short, the game was a victory for the wider community.

Believe me, I understand the corroding effects that a big sports program can have at a college. Look no further than Duke and how two women did not want to bring forward sexual assault allegations against basketball player Rasheed Sulaimon because they feared a backlash from the rabid Blue Devil fan base. Yet if Duke is one extreme then the tepidity of NESCAC fans is another. As Aristotle and Buddha asserted, the middle way is the best, and I believe that NESCAC fans got closer to that middle ground between apathy and fanaticism where passion lies. This year was a fun ride, and I am excited to do it all again next year.

Baseball Starting Nine: What You Have Missed Thus Far

Baseball returns to New England this coming weekend. Get ready. (Courtesy of Tufts University)
Baseball returns to New England this coming weekend. Get ready. (Courtesy of Tufts University)

Been too busy watching basketball and avoiding the snow to remember that NESCAC baseball is in full swing at this point? You certainly were not alone. It has been easy to lose sight of everything going on down south, but we kept close tabs for you. With the NESCAC conference season starting Friday, get ready for our season predictions and other analysis coming later this week. In the meantime, here are nine things you need to know about.

1. Wesleyan has experience for days: A quick perusal of the Wesleyan statistics tells us very clearly that freshmen are not going to see much playing time. Through twelve games, the only stats accrued by freshmen are four at-bats. Besides that a returning player has played every pitch and at-bat. That ability to have exclusively upperclassmen separates the Cardinals from every other team that has to rely on some freshmen to fill crucial roles. The returning champions have every reason to be confident.

2. Cardinals have impressed: Sticking with the defending champions for our second point. As we mentioned in our season preview, Wesleyan played a challenging spring trip schedule, and overall they showed they belong with the best. Their 8-4 victory over #7 Cal Lutheran was a high water mark that brought them to 5-0 for the season. Ace Nick Cooney ’15 started and won that game for Wesleyan. Wesleyan stumbled a bit near the end of the trip and is now 8-4, but they still are the most impressive team to this point. Guy Davidson ’16 has a slashline of .395/.477/.684 to lead the offense. Wesleyan probably hasn’t hit their stride yet, and they are already pretty scary looking.

3. Dylan Sinnickson ’15 is bashing baseballs: The return of Sinnickson to the diamond is a big reason why there is a sliver of hope around the Middlebury team, and he wasted no time making an impact. In the Panthers opening doubleheader Saturday, Sinnickson went 5-9 and hit THREE home runs. Then he hit another in the Panthers first game on Sunday to tie for the league lead after only three games. The team’s pitching against him probably had no idea who he was and he likely saw some fat fastballs that he was able to eat up, but still, not many players in the NESCAC can do hit four homers in three games. To take a year off from baseball and come back hitting like that is incredible and shows the type of athlete he is.

4. Bowdoin and Trinity struggled: The two East Division teams both have their sights set on returning to the playoffs, but they need to improve on their play quickly. Bowdoin went 5-8 on their Florida trip while the Bantams went 7-5. The Bowdoin staff saw nobody pitch well and the team had a 5.58 ERA. The front of the rotation guys like Erik Jacobsen ’15 and Harry Ridge ’16 pitched decently while Henry Van Zant ’15 started only one game. Meanwhile Trinity’s problem of hitting for no power carried over to this season. As a team the Bantams slugged .357 in their 12 games and had nobody hit a single home run. The good news is that their top two pitchers Sean Meekins ’15 and Jed Robinson ’16 looked fantastic.

5. Tommy O’Hara ’18 big for Tufts: The weakness of Tufts is their lineup, but O’Hara looks like he is going to solve a good deal of that problem single-handedly. The freshman third baseman was Tufts’ best hitter on their trip to Virginia and North Carolina. He had a ridiculous .564 OBP in 42 at-bats. With a 1:1 K:BB ratio, he should be able to carry over that type of hitting to the conference season. Don’t expect him to finish with an OBP above .500, but the Illinois native will be a huge bat in the middle of the Tufts lineup that appeared a bat or two away from being elite before the season started.

6. Amherst pitching is unsettled: The big reason why the Jeffs went only 6-6 on their trip was a pitching staff that saw a lot of players auditioning for a starting role. Six different pitchers started games for the Jeffs, and John Cook ’15 started only one game in part to let others get a chance to show their stuff. Drew Fischer ’18 flashed his massive potential with 15 strikeouts in only 8.2 innings. The problem is that he also walked nine batters. He will have to do a better job of trusting his fielders and not simply trying to strike everybody out. Jackson Volle ’17 had two solid starts and might have won the third rotation start because he appears to be more consistent than the flashy Fischer.

7. Rob DiFranco ’16 emerging for Bates: The transition from reliever to starter is going well for DiFranco so far with two starts and two wins. Granted, the first start he only went two innings. He has allowed only one run in eight innings so far, and he has yet to walk an opposing batter. DiFranco only went five innings in his longest start so far so we have not seen whether he can go deep into games yet, but the early returns are promising. Combined with Will Levangie ’15 thus far, and the Bobcats rotation has been solid.

8. Hamilton sophomores stepping up: Joe Jensen ’15 has been fantastic like you would expect him to be, and the Continentals are hitting better behind as well. Chris Collins ’17, Kenny Collins ’17, Ryan Wolfsberg ’17, and Andrew Haser ’17 are all hitting .333 or better. Haser in particular has been impressive after having an OBP below .300 in 2014. Having this core group of sophomores be consistent threats in the lineup makes Hamilton a much more dangerous team to pitch against. The Continentals will get the chance to see whether it stands up against Wesleyan this weekend.

9. Remember the sample size caveat: Do not get carried away with all the results so far. Statistics tells us that through random probability some players will get hot  A lot of things are going to change as we go forward. When assessing the worth of early season statistics, keep in mind Bayes’ theorem. While the idea is sort of complicated, the idea is lend more weight to events that confirm what we thought already and give pause to events that contradict what we thought. So for example, we can trust that Jensen hitting above .500 is not a fluke because we knew already that he was really freaking good at baseball.

Balance Necessary for Ephs: Williams Baseball Season Preview

Williams starts the season today in Arizona. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Williams starts the season today in Arizona. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

2014 Record: 13-16 (7-5, Third in NESCAC East), missed NESCAC playoffs

Starters Returning: 8 (6 Position Players, 2 Starting Pitchers)

Projected Lineup: (Stats are from 2014)

SS Jack Roberts ’17 (.302/.342/.368, 1 HR, 19 RBI)
2B Beau Horan ’16 (.163/.260/.209, 0 HR, 5 RBI
LF Luke Pierce ’15 (.312/.371/.440, 1 HR, 22 RBI)
CF Jack Cloud ’17 (.402/.463/.526, 0 HR, 22 RBI)
C Phil McGovern ’15 (.276/.325/.362, 0 HR, 17 RBI)
1B Nate Michalski ’17 (.230/.293/.311, 0 HR, 16 RBI)
RF David Rosas ’16 (.306/.342/.333, 0 HR, 5 RBI)
3B Adam Regensburg ’18
DH Kirby Neuner ’15 (.222/.467/.333, 0 HR, 2 RBI)

RHP Thomas Murphy ’15 (5-2, 3.77 ERA, 5.23 K/9, 43.0 IP)
RHP Luke Rodino ’17 (0-2, 5.63 ERA, 5.62 K/9, 24.0 IP)
RHP Daniel Smith ’16 (1-2, 9.98 ERA, 10.57 K/9, 15.1 IP)

Offensive Overview:

The unquestioned strength of the Ephs a year ago was their hitting. They were first overall in the NESCAC in OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage). They will certainly miss Matt Kastner ’14 and Thomas Stephens ’14, but with guys like Jack Cloud ’17 and Luke Pierce ’15 back, they will once again be very good. Cloud hit .402 as a freshman, and it will be exciting to see what he can do as a sophomore. Fellow sophomore Jack Roberts ’17 cooled off in conference, but he still hit over .300. A lot of spots are still very much in the air near the bottom of the lineup. Adam Regensburg ’18 will open at third base, but he can also play outfield so he might move around some this season. The core guys at the top have a shot at making this a scary offense once again.

Defensive Overview:

The Ephs defense was just about average in 2014. Their 49 errors, second least in the NESCAC a year ago, is a little misleading because they only played 29 games. For comparisons sake, Tufts played 43 games and made 52 errors. Roberts is moving from second base and replacing departed senior Kastner at shortstop. He had only four errors a year ago, but obviously shortstop is a much harder position to handle. Pierce did not have a single error last year, and he and Cloud will make a nice outfield duo. Phil McGovern ’15 brings experience at the catcher position.

Pitching Overview:

Pitching was unquestionably the major weakness for the Ephs a year ago, but they were actually better than their league worst 6.46 ERA would suggest. If you look only at conference games, the staff had a 3.95 ERA which was a middle of the pack mark. They will miss Steve Marino ’14, but Thomas Murphy ’15 has a chance to be a legitimate ace at the top of the rotation. He started five of their twelve NESCAC games and had a 2.84 ERA while also pitching three complete games. Behind him, Luke Rodino ’17 was solid his freshman year, and the sophomore should improve. Daniel Smith ’16 will get the first chance at the final weekend starting spot. His 9.98 ERA in 15.1 IP is obviously scary, but a 10.57 K/9 ratio indicates that he has the stuff to be a much better pitcher. As a group cutting down on the number of walks will be a key. That is sure to be a focus for new assistant coach, Tanner McIntrye,

Storylines to Watch:

1. In what direction is the program moving?

From 2006-2010, the Ephs finished first or tied for first in the NESCAC West every single year. In the four seasons since then, they have returned to the playoffs only once when they snuck in at 7-5 in the 2012 season. The emergence of Wesleyan and strength of Amherst has made the West a much tougher division, but there is certainly room for Williams to make some noise still. Manager Bill Barrale has been at the helm for eight seasons, and his first four were much more successful than his last four. Last season was a step in the right direction finishing above .500 in conference, and this season must continue that momentum.

2. Do they solve elite pitching?

While the offense was phenomenal for the most part last year, they scuffled against Amherst and Wesleyan. In those six games, the Ephs scored only 3.3 runs per game. In being swept by Wesleyan they managed only five runs in three games. For some reason their bats went cold for those games which was the worst possible time for them. Murphy should give the Ephs a good shot in the two games he pitches against Wesleyan and Amherst, and if the bats come alive then the Ephs can start thinking about breaking into the playoffs.

3. Is Daniel Smith ’16  the answer?

Finding a third consistent starter is huge for NESCAC teams. Teams usually throw their ace on Friday and keep their lesser starters for the Saturday doubleheader. At the very least having a third starter who can go five innings and keep you in the game before turning things over the bullpen is a necessity. As said above, Smith’s ERA from last year should come way down because of his ability to strikeout hitters. How far down it comes depends on whether he can keep the ball on the ground. A few other pitchers like Arnie Capute ’16 and Eddie Kelly ’15 could also end up starting in the rotation, but Williams would really like Smith to establish himself on their trip to Arizona.

Biggest Series: April 10-11 against Amherst

No question about this one. Not only is this a meeting of the arch-rivals, but a series win would be huge for Williams’ playoff hopes. While Wesleyan is a juggernaut, Amherst is an extremely talented but more vulnerable team. A year ago Williams won one of the three games. The Ephs play Wesleyan the weekend before, but this is the one that really matters.

New Look Panthers Hungry for Success: Middlebury Baseball Season Preview

Jason Lock '17 will be expected to be a force in the heart of the Middlebury lineup this season (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)
Jason Lock ’17 will be expected to be a force in the heart of the Middlebury lineup this season (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

2014 Record: 5-24 (2-10, Fourth in NESCAC West), missed NESCAC playoffs

Starters Returning: 9 (7 Position Players, 2 Pitchers)

Projected Lineup (Stats are from 2014):

CF Dylan Sinnickson ’15 (.379/.446/.526, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 9 SB)*
SS Johnny Read ’17 (.227/.301/.227, 0 HR, 4 RBI)
1B Jason Lock ’17 (.290/.310/.346, 0 HR, 12 RBI)
3B Joe MacDonald ’16 (.281/.311/.354, 2 HR, 19 RBI)
C/DH Max Araya ’16 (.277/.382/.383, 0 HR, 12 RBI)
C/DH John Luke ’16 (.248/.321/.376, 1 HR, 11 RBI)
LF Ryan Rizzo ’17 (.191/.217/.236, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 9 SB)
2B Raj Palekar ’18
RF Garrett Werner ’16 (.254/.342/.299, 1 HR, 6 RBI)

*Stats are from 2013

SP Eric Truss ’15 (0-7, 7.12 ERA, 2.93 K/9, 43.0 IP)
SP Cooper Byrne ’15 (1-5, 4.93 ERA, 4.29 K/9, 42.0 IP)
SP Jake Stalcup ’17 (1-1, 1.50 ERA, 5.5 K/9, 18.0 IP)
SP Rob Erickson ’18 

Offense Overview:

The Panthers need the athletic Dylan Sinnickson '15 to pick right back up where he left off two seasons ago. (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)
The Panthers need the athletic Dylan Sinnickson ’15 to pick right back up where he left off two seasons ago. (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

In what many would call a blessing, there has been a lot of roster turnover from last year in Middlebury. Of the 27 players on this season’s roster, only 16 were rostered last season. The lineup fluctuated often last year, but seven of the starters that made their way into the lineup by season’s end return in 2015. However, it takes nothing but a simple math exercise to see that for the Panthers to build on last year those returning starters will need to hit considerably better. Classmates Ryan Rizzo ’17 and Johnny Read ’17 are particularly important, as Reed is crucial as a table setter for the middle of the order, and Rizzo’s incredible speed will wreak havoc on opposing defenses if he is able to get on base more consistently. First-year infielder Raj Palekar ’18 has earned the first crack at second base by means of his nifty glove work, having beaten out a bevy of other freshmen for the honor, all of whom are likely to get a look during the team’s spring break trip to Arizona. Palekar should help to shore up the middle infield defense that was shaky (to put it positively) last year. The major change in the lineup is the return of center fielder Dylan Sinnickson ’15, an All-NESCAC Second Teamer in 2013. One of the best players in the league in 2013, Sinnickson didn’t come out last year after a long basketball season, but returns this year at exactly the right time. With the departure of last year’s senior captain Alex Kelly ’14, an All-NESCAC Second Teamer himself, Sinnickson slides nicely into the center field and leadoff spots, and brings some much-needed pop to the Middlebury lineup. Not only can he run like heck, but he has the most raw power of anyone on the roster.

Defensive Overview:

Middlebury’s defensive woes last year were arguably the most harmful part of the season. With 79 errors in 20 games, the pitching staff received no help from the defense behind them, which is especially harmful since the pitching staff by and large pitches to contact. The arrival of Palekar in the middle infield and the return of Sinnickson in the outfield will shore up those spots and raise the team defense as a whole. The outfield, in particular, could be fantastic with the wheels that Sinnickson, Rizzo and Garrett Werner ’16 display, and Werner’s powerful arm in right. However, in the wise words of Yogi Berra, “Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical,” and the same applies to Middlebury’s defense. The improved attitude of the team should have positive effects on the defensive performance.

Pitching Overview:

Veteran Eric Truss '15 is expected to anchor the Middlebury staff this spring. (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)
Veteran Eric Truss ’15 plans to anchor the Middlebury staff this spring. (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

The Panther’s staff is led by senior captain Eric Truss ’15 and fellow senior Cooper Byrne ’15. Truss appeared to be a rising star as a sophomore, posting a 3.53 ERA, but fell off considerably last year in conjunction with the team as a whole. Byrne, on the other hand, witnessed an improvement last year after getting shelled during his sophomore year. Both pitchers aren’t overpowering, but at their best exhibit good control and force a lot of ground balls, making improved infield defense a necessity. Tall righty Jake Stalcup ’17 seems in line as the third starter after showing flashes of great promise last season, with promising and even taller (6’7″) righty Rob Erickson ’18 also pushing for innings. Middlebury’s staff has years of experience behind it, and will ideally use that to improve upon last year’s performance.

Storylines to Watch

1. Sinnickson Cometh

Watching Sinnickson patrol the outfield and streak down the baselines was one of the singular pleasures of 2013. His incredible athleticism made him one of the best players in the league. He absolutely crushes fastballs and routinely made two-hoppers to shortstop into bang-bang plays at first. Having Sinnickson back on the team in his 2013 form would be crucial for Middlebury’s prospects this season. However, he did miss an entire year, and it would be fair to expect some rust to have set in … if he were a human being. However, since he is not, he should be able to return to form and be in contention for league-wide honors again.

2. Youth Movement

In addition to Palekar, there are several other freshman and sophomores who could make an impact this year, and will be responsible for changing the program’s reputation in the future. Erickson, while pushing for innings as a starter right away, also shows some promise with the bat and considerable pop to match his large frame. Jason Lock ’17, Rizzo and Read are all sophomore starters who will be crucial in bringing the program out of this slump, with Lock showing particular promise as the number three hitter in the lineup. He stands to get many more chances to drive in runs this year as well, with the return of Sinnickson in the leadoff spot and a completely healthy Read (who missed part of 2014 with a since-surgically-repaired shoulder) in the two-hole. Combining an experienced pitching staff with a youth-fueled, energetic lineup gives the Panthers hope that 2015 will be the beginning of a new run of success for Middlebury baseball.

3. It’s About the Team

It only takes a scroll or two down Middlebury College’s Yik Yak feed to see that expectations and school support for the team are not exactly high this season. There are two directions that the team’s response could go. They could either allow it to affect the season, or use it as bulletin board fodder to bring them together. Fortunately, it seems that the latter has been the trend thus far. Coach Bob Smith, now in his 30th season, has noticed that the team is “leaps and bounds” more connected this year than last year, and credits the leadership of senior captain Eric Truss, among others, for creating a focused, professional atmosphere. To return to Yogi’s quote, the Panthers will need to be – and appear to be on the right path towards being – in a far better mental state to play the game than last year, and that could have immeasurable benefits in their play. So, if I may offer the team a motto for the season (and paraphrase another great and quotable Major Leaguer), “Fu…Forget Yik Yak, and let’s play two.”

Biggest Series: March 27-28 against Williams

As Middlebury’s first NESCAC series of the year and a rivalry series, this matchup will offer the Panthers a great opportunity to put the league on notice that they won’t be a pushover this season. For Middlebury to change people’s minds about them, they’ll have to start early, and this series against Williams, another team that underachieved last season, should leave them salivating at the chance to prove that 2014 is gone and long forgotten.

Mules Mulling Playoffs: Colby Baseball Season Preview

Tyler Starks '17 turning two. (Courtesy of Dustin Satloff
Tyler Starks ’16 turning two. (Courtesy of Dustin Satloff

2014 Record: 16-15 (5-7, third in the NESCAC East), missed NESCAC playoffs

Starters Returning: 8 (5 Position Players, 3 Starting Pitchers)

Projected Lineup: (Stats are from 2014)

CF Ryder Arsenault ’17 (.308/.354/.341, 0 HR, 5 RBI)
SS Tommy Forese (.214/.313/.429, 1 HR, 2 RBI)
P/1B Soren Hanson ’16 (.320/.393/.400, 0 HR, 4 RBI)
LF Jason Buco ’15 (.327/.413/.615, 7 HR, 19 RBI)
3B Daniel Csaplar ’16  (.327/.375/.442, 1 HR, 12 RBI)
C Tim Corey ’15 (.269/.310/.308, 0 HR, 6 RBI)
RF Andrew Currier ’16 (.400/.400/.400, 0 HR, 0 RBI)
3B Paul McAuliffe ’15 (.146/.281/.167, 0 HR, 1 RBI)
2B Tyler Starks ’16 (.163/.212/.163, 0 HR, 5 RBI)

RHP Scott Goldberg ’15 (4-2, 2.47 ERA, 9.27 K/9, 43.2 IP)
RHP Soren Hanson (2-3, 2.89 ERA, 10.92 K/9, 43.2 IP)
RHP Greg Ladd ’15 (3-2, 2.52 ERA, 3.35 K/9, 43.0 IP)

Offensive Overview:

A year ago this unit sputtered and scored the fewest amount of runs during conference play which was a big reason why the Mules ended up falling short of the playoffs. The Mules lose Kevin Galvin ’14 along with three other contributors to that lineup. The good thing is that Jason Buco ’15 is back. Buco hit seven homers in 2014, and the two-sport star is likely headed for another big season. Ryder Arsenault ’17, another member of both the Colby football and baseball teams, is the second best returning hitter. He will need to get on base a lot in front of Buco. Soren Hanson ’16 and Daniel Csaplar ’16 are going to be important for providing Buco with protection in the middle of the lineup. The bottom of the lineup looks like a potential Achilles heel unless somebody like Tyler Starks ’16 is able to boost their production.

Defensive Overview:

An average defense in the field, what makes Colby special is their play from the catcher position. Tim Corey ’15 was great at throwing runners out finishing the season with 42 percent success rate. He was even better in conference where overall the Mules threw out well over 50 percent of potential base stealers. Starks is back at the ever crucial shortstop position and should improve on the 10 errors from a year ago. The combination of Buco and Arsenault in the outfield will lead to a lot of fly balls getting tracked down.

Pitching Overview:

The trio of Greg Ladd ’15, Hanson and Scott Goldberg ’15 coalesced into a great rotation a year ago. Hanson improved on his solid freshmen campaign, but it was the massive development of Ladd and Goldberg that was the biggest difference. Hanson and Goldberg are both power pitchers who will attack hitters up in the zone. Ladd tries to imitate his first name brethren Greg Maddux by overcoming his small frame with control and movement. The presence of these three will give Colby a chance in every game that they play. The bullpen is much more of a question mark. Csaplar could end up being an important piece for them there.

Three Storylines to Watch

1. How deep do their starters go?

Two of Colby’s important pitchers from a year ago, Luke Geoghegan ’14 and Dakota Rabbitt ’14, have graduated. While both had ERAs above 4.00, they were helpful for Colby in a good deal of games. Now Ladd, Hanson and Goldberg will have to go very late in games in order to keep their bullpen from getting exposed. The good news is that those three combined for seven complete games a year ago. Because of his style Ladd will be able to go late in a lot of games, but the other two starters might have more difficulty. Striking out guys pushes up your pitch count and wears on pitchers as the game goes along.

2. Which freshmen step up?

Freshmen will have a chance to get early playing time both in the lineup and rotation. Colby only has seven freshmen on the roster which is a smallish number. Three of them, John Baron ’18, Griffin Clark ’18 and Matt Garcia ’18 were also football players (Colby has six players who are also on the football team), but all three were actually more accomplished baseball players in high school. The graduation of several players and lack of any obvious replacements on the roster means freshmen will not only be asked to but will need to be big parts of any potential playoff run.

3. Do they get on base?

At their most basic, most sports are simple: score more than your opponent. Besides Buco and at times Arsenault, nobody on the Colby roster has proven themselves to be a solid consistent hitter. The Mules can still put together a decent offense together if they are more patient. Colby walked only 24 times in conference, seven less than any other team. None of Colby’s hitters outside of Buco are going to hit for extra bases so a walk is nearly as good as a hit. Walking more will also force opposing teams to go to their bullpen earlier.

Biggest Series: April 10-11 against Bates

Colby hosts the first game of this series before the teams play the Saturday doubleheader at Bates. Anytime two Maine teams meet, the stakes feel a little bit higher, and that will certainly be true for this one. The Mules dropped two of three last year mostly because they managed to score only four runs overall in the three games.

Your Continental Breakfast: Hamilton Baseball Season Preview

Joe Jensen '15 could have a massive senior season. (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)
Joe Jensen ’15 could have a massive senior season. (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

2014 Record: 10-16 (2-10, Fifth in the NESCAC West), missed NESCAC playoffs

Starters Returning: 10 (8 position players, 2 starting pitchers)

Projected Lineup: (Stats are from 2014)

CF Joe Jensen ’15 (.398/.495/.430, 0 HR, 9 RBI)
RF Kenny Collins ’17 (.359/.422/.372, 0 HR, 15 RBI)
LF Ryan Wolfsberg ’17 (.273/.359/.364, 1 HR, 13 RBI)
3B Andrew Haser ’17 (.250/.291/.350, 1 HR, 9 RBI)
SS Chris Collins ’17 (.280/.353/.307, 0 HR, 8 RBI)
C Brett Mele ’17 (.237/.384/.271/0 HR, 7 RBI)
1B David Rose ’16 (.176/.167/.353, 0 HR, 3 RBI)
DH Mike Chiseri ’16 (.242/.395/.273, 0 HR, 5 RBI)
2B Brian Ferrell ’16 (.120/.241/.120, 0 HR, 0 RBI)

LHP Jjay Lane ’15 (1-4, 5.35 ERA, 3.74 K/9, 33.2 IP)
RHP Cole Dreyfuss ’16 (1-3, 6.75 ERA, 5.83 K/9, 29.1 IP)
RHP Finlay O’Hara (1-1, 3.38 ERA, 4.22 K/9, 21.1 IP)

Offensive Overview:

Almost the entire lineup returns from what was a very freshmen-heavy contingent a year ago. The one MAJOR exception to those freshmen was center fielder Joe Jensen ’15. The speedy outfielder enjoyed an incredible junior season and was voted by Baseball America this winter as the best Division-III professional prospect in America. Teams are forced to pitch to him because he is so fast that walking him is almost like a lead-off double because he can steal second base almost at will. He is the most likely player to keep Mike Odenwaelder ’16 from winning NESCAC POY again. Besides Jensen, the Collins twins, Chris and Kenny, will be major cogs in the lineup again as sophomores. Ryan Wolfsberg ’17 is another of those sophomores looking to improve after playing a lot as a freshmen. This lineup was one of the worse ones in the NESCAC because of how many freshmen got serious at-bats, but they should be much improved and at the least the top of the lineup will scare pitchers because of Jensen.

Defensive Overview:

The Continentals struggled in NESCAC play to make the simple play and ended the year with 30 errors in 12 NESCAC games, the most of anyone in the league. Again, Jensen is the best glove where he uses his All-American track speed to catch everything in the outfield. Having two freshmen, Chris Collins ’17 and Andrew Haser ’17, man the left side of the infield a year ago showed as those two combined for 22 errors. Expect a good amount of improvement as the two get more comfortable this season. Brett Mele ’17 is back at catcher where he will provide a steady presence behind the plate.

Pitching Overview:

The pitching staff is the area where Hamilton is probably the weakest. As a sophomore in 2013, Jjay Lane ’15 was one of the best pitchers in the NESCAC with an ERA well below 2.00, but last season he was touched up to the tune of a 5.35 ERA. Never a power pitcher, Lane only struck out 14 batters all season, and his defense let him down a good amount of the time as well. The Continentals are hoping that he will be able to rebound this year. Cole Dreyfuss ’16 really struggled a season ago, but he will get another chance this season, and Finlay O’Hara ’17 will try to build on a freshman year where he showed promise. None of those three is a strikeout heavy pitcher so they will rely a lot on their defense behind them. The hope is that Lane can be an ace and Dreyfuss and O’Hara are able to keep the ball on the ground as much as possible.

Storylines to Watch

1. Does Jensen have another level?

The somewhat amazing thing about Jensen is that he has improved leaps and bounds during his time at Hamilton. His freshman year he hit .170 in 53 at-bats, and his sophomore year showcased his speed more than his bat. Only last season did he emerge as an absolute force at the plate. His sudden ascent to an actual MLB draft prospect took virtually everybody by surprise. Already this season Jensen has hit a home run, something that he never did a year ago. That could hint at him being more than just somebody who is able to get on-base like crazy. It would also make the talk about him being drafted become a lot more realistic. Despite being on one of the worst teams in the league last year, Jensen is unquestionably one of the top five players in the NESCAC, and he could finish the year as the very best one.

2. Where does their opponents’ BABIP end up?

For the uninitiated, BABIP stands for “batting average on balls in play” which basically takes away strikeouts and home runs. In general research has found that pitchers actually have little control over their BABIP, though there are some notable exceptions. So a lot of it is luck, and for a staff like Hamilton that doesn’t strike out a lot of hitters, luck can be very important. The difference between a low opponents’ BABIP (good for Hamilton) and a high one (bad) is significant enough that we could look back at Hamilton’s season differently just based on that. A good defense that limits errors will also help the pitching staff, of course.

3. What is their ceiling?

Jensen is going to be very good, and the lineup around him should be much improved. Unfortunately for Hamilton (Middlebury and Williams too), Amherst and Wesleyan just have way more talent than them. The Continentals went 2-10 in conference last year, and they were fifth in the West because they lost the head-to-head tiebreaker to Middlebury. A third place finish in the West is certainly possible given the room for improvement amongst their younger players, but their lack of any dominant pitcher will make beating Amherst or Wesleyan in even one game a tall task.

Biggest Series: April 24-25 home against Williams

A season ago Hamilton ended the NESCAC season on a low note by being swept at Williams. That result was a big reason why they ended up in the cellar, but the series could be very different in New York this year. A series victory could be enough to lift Hamilton into third place.