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.