It might sound crass to say it so early in the conference season, but Wesleyan, Amherst and Tufts are all going to make the playoffs. I feel very confident saying that, though I hope that somebody proves me wrong. If that is the case, the most intriguing part of the regular season is seeing who gets that second spot out of the East. Bates has grabbed it the past two seasons, but both years they did it with a less than sterling 7-5 record. So who is it going to be in the second spot in the East this year?
This weekend will go a long way towards sorting that out with the four East Division teams besides Tufts meeting in conference series. Trinity (2-1 in conference) travels to Maine to play Colby who has yet to start their conference slate. Bates (0-2) and Bowdoin (1-2) meet in games that could almost eliminate the series loser from the playoff race. Projecting these two series is difficult, but that is what makes it fun.
As always, keep an eye on the weather too. The fields have taken a beating this week, and while the skies look fairly clear for the weekend, play today could be slightly disrupted.
Three to Watch
1. 1B Chad Martin ’16 (Bowdoin): That Polar Bear offense sputtered against Trinity as Bowdoin lost two of three. Martin has to get on track as the star in the middle of the lineup if Bowdoin is going to do well. He has an OBP. below .300 and a slugging percentage less than .400 so things have not gone for the All-NESCAC Second Teamer. The one silver lining is that he has two home runs, and that is a sign that he is still hitting the ball hard at points. My best guess is that he is trying to do too much righ now because he knows how much Bowdoin relies on him. Soooo, maybe not a good idea to put even more pressure on him, especially since I’m a Bowdoin fan. Ehh, whatever. I believe in Martin, and so should you.
2. IF Connor Reenstierma ’16 (Bates): Another offense that sputtered last weekend: that would the Bates Bobcats. What is killing Bates is not that they don’t have one guy doing great. Brendan Fox ’17 is having a fantastic junior season and is batting well above .400. The problem is that every single other guy is hitting well below their capabilities. Reenstierma is a guy that is great at getting on base. Though his batting average is usually much lower, he excels at working the count. Getting on-base alone might not be enough for Bates to get a good offense this weekend, but it would certainly help a lot. Bates is going to have to grind for everything they get all season, and this is the weekend when the grinding has to happen a lot.
3. P Ethan Rode ’17 (Wesleyan): I’m not paying any attention at all to the West, but there is the potential for one of the underdogs in the West to pull a fast one. Wesleyan is HOT right now winning their past seven games. One of the reasons for that is that Rode has gotten back on track. Things went as bad as they could in his first two appearances. Since then, he has delivered three dynamite starts for the Cardinals. In those three starts he has a 1.28 ERA. That should make other NESCAC teams very worried. Wesleyan’s offense has not fallen off from last season, and the possibility of Rode and Peter Rantz ’16 forming a formidable top of the rotation could spell game over.
Colby vs. Trinity Preview
The Bantams series win last weekend has them thinking playoffs, but Trinity won two of three last year against Bowdoin and still finished well outside the playoff race so don’t put too much stock in that. The Mules have struggled mightily so far this season, and there are real questions about the depth of talent on the roster.
You should know that Soren Hanson ’16 is a two-way stud for Colby, and he has been lights out on the mound with a 0.89 ERA in 20.1 IP. The Mules desperately need somebody else to deliver a quality start . I’m also intrigued with how Colby uses Hanson. Do they start him in the nine inning Friday game or save him for Saturday? I prefer pitching him Game 1 on Saturday since it is much more likely that he is able to go all seven than all nine on Friday. Nothing would be worse for the Mules than for Hanson to throw a gem for most of the game Friday, only for the bullpen to blow it late.
Trinity will probably toss Jed Robinson ’16 on Friday and Anthony Egeln ’18 has solidified that second spot. The third starter last week was Chris Speer ’17, and he is likely to start again. The games could easily hinge on an error by either team, and that favors the Bantams. I want to put my faith in the team from Hartford given the track record of that program, but it still isn’t clear if there is a lot of young talent beyond Brendan Pierce ’18. Even so, Colby is very down this year, and I think the Bantams become the frontrunner to get that second spot.
Prediction: Trinity wins two of three
Bowdoin vs. Bates Preview
I’ve already talked a little bit about how both offenses have struggled this season. That means pitching this weekend entails making no mistakes, ala walking a lot of batters or serving up a meatball in the wrong situation.
In this type of situation I give Bates the advantage because of their more experienced pitchers, but Bowdoin is still capable of throwing two seniors in Harry Ridge ’16 and Michael Staes ’16 that have the stuff to shut down a lineup. The weather in Maine is going to be cold and rainy, and that means pitchers have the advantage. Any fly ball is going to die in the air, not to mention the discomfort hitters will experience at the plate.
Both of these programs are solid, but they have not been able to scratch above that upper-middle class status at any point recently. It doesn’t appear that this year is going to be particularly different, and the first weekends games were downright disturbing. At the same time, a lot of talent remains on both of these squads. Sombody young might step up and make the difference, but my money is on old stalwarts like Rob DiFranco ’16 or Sean Mullaney ’17 to be the biggest stars. Bates has more of those players that have been around the block, and I think they keep themselves in the playoff race with a series win this weekend.
Nothing says “baseball” like six inches of snow, right? Believe it or not, it is spring in the NESCAC. Though we may be trudging through snow and having games canceled because of “inclement weather” (i.e. sudden blizzard in April?!?!), we will be able to see the field by this weekend, and there will be games played on them. The weather can only deprive us of NESCAC baseball (and MLB Opening Day games) for so long.
Braving mercurial weather conditions, the teams played their first of many NESCAC Division series Friday and Saturday (The games between Wesleyan and Colby do not count towards their conference record). While most NESCACs were delaying or postponing weekend matchups, Williams and Middlebury continued to soak up the gorgeous Arizona sun in their first NESCAC West series but have returned to NESCAC turf for the remainder of the season.
Guys making—or remaking—history
Williams’ pitcher Luke Rodino ’17 and Hamilton’s 1B Andrew Haser ’17 did more than make a good first impression in their NESCAC openers.
Rodino threw a complete-game eight-hitter without walking a single batter. Alone, the accomplishment is pretty nice, but if you consider that no other Eph pitcher has done that in 37 games (i.e. 369 days ago), it’s amazing. As a result, Williams defeated rival Middlebury 8-2, improving their record to 5-8 overall and 1-0 in the NESCAC West. And here’s a fun fact for you: the last time Williams did not walk any batters was also thanks to Rodino’s arm.
If neither his NESCAC Player of the Week nod nor his clutch walk-off have sufficiently marked him as a threat at the plate, Andrew Haser’s ’17 school-record three home runs for Hamilton on Friday will certainly do the trick. The hotshot hit his home runs in consecutive innings against the team from Central Massachusetts; he’s racked up five so far this season, just two short of the program’s single-season mark, and 10 in his collegiate career (three away from yet another school record). At this rate, the junior will have no problem shattering those records before he graduates, let alone this year. I guess you could say he’s having a pretty good start to the season.
It’s time to stop thinking about Middlebury as the team that comes in last in NESCAC standings each season and to start applauding their achievements as they come. The Panthers beat Williams in the final two games of a three-game NESCAC West series this weekend, first by virtue of a 2-1 crazy walk-off and then by a 11-4 tally in Saturday’s nightcap. The team has demonstrated noticeable improvement across the board. John Luke ’16 is Middlebury’s comeback kid: he seems to be making up for three years of mediocre hitting, as he now leads the team and most players in the NESCAC with his .432/.462/.595 slashline. Meanwhile, Jake Turtel ’18 has developed his skills all around, earning the starting 2B position after not playing much at all last season and racking up a .325/.372/.375 combination at bat. Former 2B Brendan Donohue ’18 has proven himself to be quite a wild card, moving around the diamond to LF and even to pitcher and maintaining his hitting reliability with a .320/.393/.400 slashline. Middlebury only committed two errors in three games (compared to Williams’ seven), and that solid command of the field is no doubt a result of diligent team growth.
Middlebury should really be excited by their arsenal of talented rookies. With speed and a strong arm, Sam Graf ’19 is an asset to the outfield with only one error in 12 games, while Spencer Tonies ’19 is making a big impact at shortstop (.441/.474/.559). Behind the plate, Phil Bernstein ’19 has been a great defensive force in the weekend’s games. Their progress may not mean that much right now, but in the long run, investment in the younger players will result in a more competitive team. No, the Panthers aren’t going to take the NESCAC West anytime soon, but if they keep up the good work, they may break free from their cycle of disappointment. Here’s looking at you, kids.
P Cole Dreyfuss ’16 (HAM)
Taking the mound after Hamilton’s 18-8 defeat against Amherst, Cole Dreyfuss ’16 ruled all seven innings of Saturday’s Game One. His imposing two-hitter force not only surprised Amherst but also made them visibly nervous. The senior captain held Amherst hitless for one stretch of 5.2 innings. With this victory, Dreyfuss earned his team-leading third win of the season, which raises his career record to 12-8 (third place on the team’s career wins list).
Although Amherst came out on top in the weekend’s series, winning two of the three games—albeit that the last one stretched into extra innings—Hamilton definitely showed both the flustered Jeffs and the entire NESCAC that the Continentals won’t be beaten without a hard fight. And most of that tenacity this weekend can be credited to Dreyfuss’s fantastic pitching.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. The Polar Bears’ early success was due to either hidden talent or mediocre competition, and right now, it’s looking like the latter. There’s no denying that Ben Osterholtz ’19 (0.66 ERA), Connor Rooney (1.13 ERA), and Harry Ridge (2.18 ERA) are good pitchers; Michael Staes ’16 (3.71 ERA) isn’t throwing poorly either. But as a team Bowdoin has only managed to secure a 4.28 ERA and a concerning 5.16 K/G, and when it comes to the NESCAC, that’s just ok. The power we saw—or thought we saw—during spring training has simmered out: it was all relative to the competition the Polar Bears’ faced rather than the competition they would ultimately see in conference games. Luckily, the team has a solid group of pitchers to continually develop over the season.
No one expects a bottom team to suddenly play a super competitive game against reigning champions, but the Mules had nothing in their favor during their brutal 21-1 loss to Wesleyan on Saturday.
The Mules are hardly poor hitters; with a .312 AVG, they are relatively average in the NESCAC and actually have fewer strikeouts than any other team. At the end of the day, the team just had the misfortune of going up against Peter Rantz ’16 and Nick Miceli ’17, so their failings at the plate are understandable. Determining the efficacy of their defense is more nuanced. In the first game of the DH, Colby had three errors compared to Wesleyan’s zero; in the second, the Mules had six errors compared to the Cardinals’ one. Considering that their .956 FPCT is identical to Amherst’s, it’s hard to say that sloppy defense is the sole culprit for the Mules poor start. Regardless, allowing 21 runs in nine innings—11 in one inning alone—isn’t the work of a stable squad.
Why did Colby give up so many hits? Last weeks’ Pitcher of the Week Soren Hanson ’16 put in a solid 6.1 innings in Game One, holding the Cardinals to just three runs. However, Game Two was basically a pitcher party to which seven different guys showed up. Right now, the team has a collective 9.35 ERA, and when you’re going down the roster for teammates to pitch in your game, you’re not looking at a drastic improvement. Put that ERA up against the most dangerous hitters in the team, and you’ve got Game 2. And that’s just ugly. The Mules can unquestionably improve their work both at the plate and in the field, but their efforts won’t make up for poor pitching. Putting together a more reliable rotation behind Hanson—one that will get your through DH weekends—needs to be Colby’s focus right now.
Amherst’s music selection
You know something’s really bad it the NSN announcer is making fun of it. In this case, he was begging Amherst to turn off the music. Sir, I feel your pain.
My tastes may be limited to 90s rock, but I can say without hesitation that whoever made the playlist for the Amherst-Hamilton series was completely out of their mind. Why would you ever switch back and forth between bubble-gum country and EDM? Or better yet, why would you ever—EVER—play “Let It Go” from Frozen during a baseball game? What happened to good old-fashioned Jock Jams?
Amherst DJ, I have quite an expansive knowledge of said Jock Jams and appropriate pump-up music and would be happy to be of assistance to you. But seriously—what were you thinking?
STOCK WAY DOWN
Amherst-Hamilton’s nightcap was delayed due to torrential rainfall. All of Sunday’s games were postponed due to inclement weather. And the last two days I’ve woken up to snowfall.
Get your act together, Nature. Spring is for baseball, not building snow forts.
The NESCAC regular season finally starts next Friday after several weeks of spring training. Being that the majority of teams have yet to face a NESCAC opponent, the only taste we’ve had of the competition this season has been through non-conference face-offs. With opening weekend looming, it’s time for us to publish our current power rankings. Our opinions for each time are determined by statistics from last season and this year’s spring break. Check back early next week to see our predictions for how the teams will perform in the NESCAC standings this season.
Amherst (8-1, 0-0)
Amherst continues to dominate both the diamond and the NESCAC standings. The mound has already received accolades for its strong start, with pitcher Jackson Volle ’17 being named the NESCAC Pitcher of the Week, and the team from Central Mass also has Riley Streit ’16 to thank for their success. Together, with ERAs of 0.64 and 1.69, Volle and Streit have carried a defense that has yet to disappoint. In the field, senior catcher/DH Connor Gunn ’16 and 1B/DH Dave Cunningham ’16 are pure dynamite, producing 56 and 51 putouts and FPCTs of 0.969 and 1.00. On the offense, a core force of Yanni Thanopoulos ’17, Anthony Spina ’17 and Ariel Kenney ’18 continue to put power behind the bat, helping the team hit a .350 AVG in nine games. For now, Amherst looks like a powerhouse without any loose screws, but how much they can sustain this into the season still needs to be determined.
Amherst hosts Hamilton next weekend in their first NESCAC matchup of the season.
Wesleyan (10-3, 0-0)
Placing in second might come as a shock for the Cardinals, who’ve dominated the NESCAC for two years running. Indeed, the Cardinals are using any doubt as personal motivation. Now, Wesleyan isn’t struggling to deliver, per say, but they certainly need to sharpen up on the mound and in the field if they want to begin to resemble the championship-winning team they have been in the last two seasons. After 13 games, the Cardinals hold a relatively horrific ERA of 6.14, compared to last season’s final of 2.70. This places them near the bottom of current NESCAC standings. While Nick Miceli ’17 has held his own on the bump, boasting a 1.71 ERA with 19 strike outs, Peter Rantz ’16 is showing a bit more inconsistency. In yesterday’s game against the Coast Guard, he allowed 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, and three walks in 4.2 innings. Hopefully Rantz isn’t getting anxious with the added responsibility of being the Cardinals ace. Wesleyan needs to provide their pitchers with confidence and security in the field in order to properly support pitchers’ efforts. Miceli, Matt Jeye ’18 and O’Sullivan are team standouts but cannot raise the entire defense out of its average-ranking playing.
Wesleyan is just a little rough the edges as the team whips pitchers into champion shape, but once they figure that out, they will be even more threatening to the opposition. After all, Wesleyan still stands out as the biggest hitters in the NESCAC. Lead by a dangerous trio of Miceli, Eric Jones ’16, and Guy Davidson ’16, the Cardinals hold a fearsome .373 AVG with 32 doubles, 14 triples, six homeruns, and 109 RBIs.
Bowdoin (8-3, 0-0)
The Polar Bears have definitely surprised us with their success so far—and are obviously playing far more competitively than their opponents in the East Division. Their 14-8 loss to Hamilton revealed that there remains weakness in the pitching rotation. Brandon Lopez ’19 threw the most innings with 2.2, in which he allowed 6 H, 6 R, 6 ER, and only struck out two batters. Meanwhile, Ben Osterholtz ’19 and Michael Staes ’16 have stood out early, with a combined 1.29 ERA (helping the team reach 3.71 ERA), but until we see more of their pitching, it’s difficult to determine if Bowdoin’s success as of late is due to true Polar Bear power or just mediocre competition. The Polar Bears travel to Hartford, Conn. next weekend to face Trinity.
Tufts (5-3, 0-0)
The Jumbos had a frustrating start to the season: their initial losses happened not because the team isn’t capable but because they just weren’t producing like we know they can. The team has improved, but they have yet to demonstrate the batting power we saw last season behind stars like Tommy O’Hara ’18. Right now, the team’s fielding and pitching stats are pretty average, consistently placing them right in the middle of NESCAC standings. In eight games, the team has averaged .285 at the plate, mainly due to the tremendous effort of Harry Brown ’17, Matt Moser ’16, and Cody McCallum ’16, who have consistently performed admirably up at bat with averages of .450, .353, and .324. However, the Jumbos future is getting brighter: though O’Hara had a slow start to his sophomore season, he has drastically improved his batting edge in Tufts’ last two games, bringing his batting average up to .303. Clearly, the Jumbos are just taking some time to get back their stride. They have until next Saturday, their first NESCAC competition against Bates, to tighten up their loose ends.
Hamilton (9-5, 0-0)
While Hamilton lost to very beatable squads during its two week stretch in Florida, it’s clear that the Continentals have concrete chemistry, especially amongst the junior class. The team’s 14-8 victory against Bowdoin was a big confidence booster too. The Continentals definitely can brag about their performance at bat: they have a teamwide .370 AVG. Hamilton has produced 28 doubles, five triples, three homeruns, 78 RBIs and a beautiful .457 OBP, largely thanks to juniors Ryan Wolfsberg ’17, Brett Mele ’17, Kenny Collins ’17, and Andrew Haser ’17. The mound is also dominated by underclassmen. Max Jones ’19 (1.59 ERA), Dan DePaoli ’18 (2.60 ERA) and Spencer Vogelbach ’18 (3.00 ERA) comprise a growing force on the mound, amassing to a team ERA of 3.71. The trio, in addition to veteran Cole Dreyfuss ’16 (5.50 ERA), creates a dependable rotation, but anything beyond that remains a mystery that Hamilton needs to solve quickly.
Some early experimentation in position assignments (i.e. Haser and Andrew Watson’19 on the mound) suggests that the team has needed to make up for unanticipated empty holes in the roster, but the problem is only temporary. CF Chris Collins ’17, 3B Dean Rosenberg ’18 and Finlay O’Hara ’17 have missed several games due to minor injuries, but they’ll be fresh and prepared for Hamilton’s games against Amherst next weekend. The return of Collins and Rosenberg will especially add more power to Hamilton’s already impressive batting lineup.
Trinity (5-6, 0-0)
Throughout spring training, Trinity has been a team that hasn’t played consistently in games: essentially the Bantams win and lose back and forth, and typically by a substantial number of runs. Overall, the team is equally average in all areas. What’s most surprising, however, is the rough start of Bantam veteran pitcher Jed Robinson ’16. After two starts, Robinson holds a 5.84 ERA, and the other pitchers with the same number of starts – namely Anthony Elgein, Jr. ’18, McLane Hill ’18 and Nicholas Fusco ’18 – aren’t doing much better with ERAs of 3.97, 5.87 and 10.38. The good news is Fusco and Robinson have the track record to think they will rebound. While rookie Erik Mohl ’19 showed promise against Plattsburgh St., pitching six scoreless innings, he also racked up a 2:4 K:BB ratio over 7.1 IP. The Bantams still haven’t gotten things going in the way they are capable of.
Bates (5-7, 0-0)
With their current 0.417 win percentage, the Bobcats are a shadow of the team that made it to the playoffs last season. You’d be hard pressed to find a real strength in the team at this point, but it is clear that Bates desperately needs to improve at bat. Their hitting is weak with a .258 BA, and when you’re losing most of your games to average competition by three or fewer runs, that is a huge problem. Brendan Fox ’17 (.457 BA) is the strongest at the plate with four doubles, one triple, one homerun, 12 RBIs, and five walks. However, against NESCAC opposition, the Bobcats need others to step up.
Middlebury (1-1, 0-0)
The Panthers are at a disadvantage when it comes to accurately ranking teams, as they’ve only played two games so far. After coming in dead last in the conference last year with a 4-24 record, Middlebury needs improvement in a host of areas. Nevertheless, in their first two outings, they demonstrated stability and potential for growth, even defeating Bates in the second game of their doubleheader. The currently success of the pitching rotation comes from freshmen, which is somewhat concerning in a conference with much more experienced pitchers. Colby Morris ’19 holds a 3.00 ERA from his one start. The bullpen, meanwhile, which includes yet another rookie Conor Himstead ’19, has produced five scoreless innings, showing some promise for future matchups. Middlebury gets a nod in our rankings because of room for correction, but realistically, their rank is more due to the current deficiencies of other teams.
Colby (2-8, 0-0)
Right now, Colby’s greatest success has been their average batting average (.317 BA). Seniors Dan Csaplar ’16 and Tyler Starks ’17 lead the pack with averages of .444 and .375, and while they don’t get much distance for their hits, they have been reliable starters. However, the Mules can’t rely on decent batting to make up for sub-par fielding and pitching if they want to win conference games. On the bump, Colby needs to immediately improve its 10.31 ERA if they want to improve in rankings. Dan Schoenfeld ’18 and Robert Donohue ’17 are the steadiest of pitchers, and their ERAs are 4.76 and 9.00. The Mules have had more with Tommy Forese ’16 and Soren Hanson ’16, but they need more than those two. Colby faces Wesleyan next weekend in a non-conference series, and perhaps a week of intense focus and the home field advantage will amount to some good competition.
Williams (1-5, 0-0)
The Ephs have stumbled out of the gates. In their six games, Williams was only able to finish their first of the season with a victory. At the end of the day, the team has everything working against them. On the mound, the Ephs clearly need a lot of work: the team bears a pretty dreadful 12.63 ERA, despite the 1.50 ERA held by Luke Rodino ’17. Yet, the below-average pitchers are assisted by disappointing fielders with a 0.931 FPCT. Hitting is where the Ephs show the greatest strength right now, with a decent 0.345 AVG. Ironically, Williams possesses of two of the best hitters in the conference right now, Kellen Hatheway ’19 (.520) and Jack Roberts ’17 (.500). While power at the plate is a good start for the Ephs, they’ll be eaten alive by the entire NESCAC unless they pull themselves together defensively. The team has talent, and I don’t think they will stay in the cellar, but they have to find answers on the mound.
While you’ve been at home crying over your destroyed March Madness brackets, NESCAC baseball teams have swarmed to warmer climates to start their seasons. Players have already been hard at work with practices and games for weeks – and a month, if you’re Bates -, but it’s these crucial games during break in which coaches and teams determine starting lineups for many home openers set for this coming weekend. Teams may just be trying to find the right lineups, but the stats and results can’t hide from the official record.
While the makeup of Wesleyan’s roster may be different than in previous seasons, its potential for success has hardly diminished. Nevertheless, the Cardinals continue to excel thanks to veteran players like OF Jordan Farber ’16, P Peter Rantz ’16, P/C/2B Nick Miceli ’17, and SS Guy Davidson ’16. Davidson’s spring break run has clinched his position as one of the best hitters in the NESCAC: during the two-week period, he hit .444/.500/.685 as he went 24-for-54, driving in 19 runs and scoring 16 times.
Like the Cardinals, Amherst has continued to dominate the diamond, despite also losing the team’s star, current-MLB player Mike Odenwaelder ’16. Yet, Amherst is currently boasting an 8-1 record and shows no signs of slowing down going forward into the season, especially with the starting outfield of Yanni Thanopoulos ’17, Anthony Spina ’17 and Ariel Kenney ’18 hitting an outrageous .371 through nine games. Kenney himself has gone 16-for-35 and currently leads the team in batting average (.457), on-base percentage (.500), and slugging percentage (.657). Pitcher Jackson Volle ’17, who on Monday was named the NESCAC Pitcher of the Week, opened the season strong, claiming two wins in his first two starts to help Amherst secure their exceptional 8-1 overall record. Volle wrapped up spring break with a tidy 0.64 ERA.
Perhaps the greatest surprise in the early going has been Bowdoin’s brilliant winning streak. They’ve opened the season 7-0 on the strength of some great pitching to the tune of a 2.68 team ERA through the first five games (yesterday’s stats vs. Greenville were not available at the time of this posting).
Now for the first stock report of the what is going to be a very interesting season.
P/C Nick Miceli ’17 (Wesleyan)
Throughout the Cardinals’ first 12 games, Miceli has proven that on the field, he’s a man for all seasons: already he’s stood out in the conference for stellar pitching, hitting and fielding. He’s the ultimate NESCAC Triple Threat.
The junior, having already thrown in five games, is ranked in second in the conference with a 16.2 IP, 8.54 K/G and ERA of 2.16. Miceli’s strength on the mound was clear in Wesleyan’s second game against Bethany Lutheran College on March 7. Bethany Lutheran scored six runs in the first two innings, thanks in large part to some shoddy defense, giving them a generous 6-2 lead heading into the third. The two teams were almost even in hits, with Bethany Lutheran only outhitting Wesleyan by one. During innings 3-6 Miceli was nearly untouchable, allowing four hits but no runs with no walks and five strikeouts. He then impressed in relief on March 11 against Marian University, allowing one run on three hits with four strikeouts in five innings. But that’s not all: Miceli boasts a .474/.500/.632 line in 38 at bats while seeing time mostly at second but also catcher and DH.
In short, Miceli is good. Really good.
Fresh Pitching Faces
Around the NESCAC plenty of youngsters have shown some great potential on the mound in the early going.
After graduating Elias and Cooney and losing Pittore, Wesleyan hasn’t missed a beat on the mound. Miceli has looked good throwing the ball, and Peter Rantz has picked right back up where he left off, but Mike McCaffrey ’19 has shown some potential, too. His first outing was disastrous, to say the least, but so was everything else for the Cardinals in their season-opening 29-14 rout at the hands of Hamline. McCaffrey improved in his second outing, and then shined in his third appearance, a complete game victory over Carleton when he allowed four hits and one walk while striking out 10.
Hamilton’s Spencer Vogelbach ’18 first made a name for himself as a first-year at the beginning of last season. In the Continental’s spring break game against Alfred State, his 11 strikeouts were the most by a Hamilton baseball pitcher in a single game in five years — an accomplishment that should not and cannot be ignored. Vogelbach pitched in three of Hamilton’s seven wins last week, striking out 11 batters and racking up a 14.0 IP with just one walk. The rookie was sixth in the NESCAC with a 2.25 ERA and a 4-1 record last season. Clearly, his rookie season was just a preview of what is to come for Hamilton’s pitching rotation. Dan DePaoli ’18 has also impressed on the bump; he went 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in two starts that covered 11 innings. In Hamilton’s 7-1 win at Bard on March 12, DePaoli only allowed one unearned run on two hits in six innings of work. Then, in Friday’s 17-6 victory against Lawrence, he gave up three runs on four hits, struck out six and didn’t walk a batter in five innings. He also handled four chances in the field without an error.
Two freshmen started on the bump for Middlebury in their season-opening doubleheader against Bates. Colby Morris ’19 spun a complete game gem but was let down by his offense in a 2-1 loss. In the second of the twinbill, Jack Bunting ’19 was dominant through three innings before a pair of mistakes resulted in a three-run inning and one long left center field homer that was aided by a windy day that saw three balls leave the yard. Bunting finished with 4.0 IP, 3 ER, 5 K and 1 BB. In relief three members of the formerly beleaguered Middlebury staff, including newbie Conor Himstead ’19, combined for five scoreless innings.
Walk Off Victories
It’s hard to tell what the Continentals love more: actually winning with a walk off or showing off the swagger of the moment on social media (as a loyal Continental, I’m personally a fan of both, but I confess I’m biased).
On March 14, the walk-off homerun of OF Kenny Collins ’17 won Hamilton’s first game against Minnesota-Morris by a narrow margin, 3-2. You have to love Collins’ elaborate helmet toss, shown towards the end of the video shared on Hamilton Baseball’s Twitter. I’m pretty sure hurling your helmet into the air is frowned upon by NCAA regulations, but in this situation, how could you not?
Andrew Haser ’17, the NESCAC Player of the Week, built off of Collins’ momentum ending Hamilton’s first game against Allegheny. With bases loaded in the seventh inning, Haser laced a homerun that freed the Continentals from a tied score (and this comes just two days after his grand slam contributed to Hamilton’s 17-6 victory against Lawrence). Haser currently leads the Continentals with 10 runs, seven extra-base hits, 13 RBIs, five doubles and a .706 slugging percentage. The junior is hitting .382 (13-for-34) and has only made one error in 54 chances at shortstop.
The Continentals cheered that they couldn’t believe they managed to escape defeat twice this early into the season? Neither could we.
It’s not just Hamilton walking off in style these days, though. In the second game of the doubleheader between Middlebury and Bates on Saturday, both teams threatened to score in extras of the originally seven-inning ball game. It was all ended with one swing though, when rightfielder Sam Graf ’19 notched his first career hit by smacking a long no-doubter to left field. The Panthers did a solid job of celebrating in their own right.
Starting pitcher Henry Van Zant ’15 was unquestionably Bowdoin’s pride and glory last season, tying the program’s single-season record for wins by going 7-1, including a 5-0 mark in conference games. The stats don’t lie: he was the primary reason Bowdoin kept swimming throughout the season, even if he alone couldn’t launch the Polar Bears into the playoffs. Without him, Bowdoin has to redesign its entire pitching structure, to find a way to be victorious without their star.
In spite of pre-season doubts, Bowdoin really has come out on top, winning all seven of their games so far. And it’s worth noting that only two wins were by a narrow margin — in five of the Polar Bears’ wins to date, they have defeated their opponents by five or more runs.
Seniors Harry Ridge ’16 and Michael Staes ’16 impressed on the mound in Bowdoin’s sweep of Utica on March 15, pitching 5.2 and 7.0 innings, respectively. Ridge earned Bowdoin’s win on the mound while allowing just six hits and two earned runs. He struck out eight with only one walk. Staes turned in a complete seven inning performance in game two, allowing nine hits and only one run to earn the win. He struck out four Pioneers with no walks. Rookie Brandon Lopez ’19 earned his first collegiate win on the mound on March 17 against Dickinson, going six innings and allowing four hits and as many runs. Lopez struck out six and walked a pair.
Offensively, Chad Martin ’16 is clearly building upon his past success at bat. His .311 AVG last season placed him in the middle of NESCAC ranks, but he shows potential to outperform himself in the games ahead. Peter Cimini ’16 added ferocity to the Polar Bears’ deep offense, batting .400 with a .733 slugging percentage through the first five contests, collecting three extra base hits and six RBIs.
Tufts’ 3B Tommy O’Hara ’18
Last spring training, rookie O’Hara was the wiz kid on the Jumbos, developing a .564 OBP in 42 at-bats with six walks during spring break. Throughout the season, the freshman infielder led the team’s offense with a .405 ABG, .518 OBP and .603 SLG. And let’s not forget that he also hit a team-high 14 doubles while registering four home runs, 42 runs scored and 42 RBIs.
The Jumbos may have seen only five games at this point, but their 2-3 record and poor showing at the plate are cause for concern. In his first 16 at bats, O’Hara has amassed a .188/.435/.188 line. That OBP is nice, and is carried by six walks, but he also has seven strikeouts already. O’Hara struck out 25 times all of last season for a 14.9% K rate. Right now he’s walking back to the dugout 30.4% of the time. It’s very early, still, but let’s hope the sophomore isn’t putting too much pressure on himself.
2. Trinity Pitching
The Bantams are 4-6 to open the year, but it’s pretty obvious that the biggest hurdle they will have to climb this season is replacing SP Sean Meekins ’15, he of the 2.01 ERA a year ago. The experienced and usually reliable Jed Robinson ’16 has gotten knocked around in two starts to the tune of a 5.84 ERA, and the other pitchers with two starts already – Anthony Elgein, Jr. ’18, McLane Hill ’18 and Nicholas Fusco ’18 – have ERAs of 3.97, 5.87 and a ghastly 10.38. The bright spot for the rotation so far has been newbie Erik Mohl ’19, who shut down Plattsburgh St. in his one start, throwing six scoreless innings, but his 2:4 K:BB ratio over 7.1 IP does not bode well for the future.
Speaking of Plattsburgh St., the 37 runs that Trinity posted on the Cardinals during their doubleheader last week may be bolstering the team’s .314/.410/.433 slash line, but I’d bet more heavily on the Bantams’ offense than pitching staff right now.
3. Live Stats
I have many bones to pick with the stability of live stats programs this week. It’s hard enough trying to follow a baseball game using play-by-play stats rather than a video stream. A live stats program that continues that constantly lags or repeatedly—or permanently—freezes is just torture.
Over the years, I have accumulated quite a list of grievances about these streams, and the Hamilton vs. Fredonia stats stream probably embodied them all. In the first game, the program showed the stats of Fredonia’s previous game for the first two innings; when it finally switched to the Hamilton game, it never changed the lineup and eventually froze in the bottom of the third inning. It never adjusted for the second game.
Perhaps this was the most extreme of cases, but so far, none of my experiences with live stats during spring training have been positive. Help a fan out, NESCAC! Get it together. I hope, and expect, that the ability to follow along with NESCAC games will improve once all teams return up north, as is usually the case.
On Thursday, March 17, Trinity lost to Rutgers-Camden 9-4 in Auburndale, FL. According to Trinity’s website, however, the team actually played against Rugers-Camden. Now, as a New Jersey native, I was extremely skeptical that “Rugers-Camden” actually existed—I even looked up “Rugers” just to confirm that it’s not a slang way of referring to Rutgers University that I’ve never heard of. But no, Trinity corrected itself in the line below the flawed headline, accurately spelling out “Rutgers-Camden.”
Yet, Rugers appeared again. And then again. And then the website switched back to Rutgers. Then back to Rugers.
I can’t condemn an occasional typo (we’ve all been there), but having exorbitant inconsistencies regarding a nationally known institution on an official college website is inexcusable. Note that the errors still remain throughout the game recap.
The Bantams may have won the game, but the college itself lost in quality coverage. Shame on you, Trinity!
I thought that was all, but then this little nugget was brought to our attention. As noted above, Middlebury walked off on Bates 4-3 in the second game of a doubleheader on Saturday, March 21. According to the NESCAC Weekly Release, however, “Bates def. Middlebury, 4-3”. They have the records right in the Team Standings category, but we couldn’t help backing the Panthers on this one.
2014 Record: 18-16-1 (5-7, Fourth in the NESCAC East)
Postseason Outcome: Missed NESCAC Playoffs
Returning Starters: 9 (6 Position Players, 3 Starting Pitchers)
Projected Starting Lineup (Stats are from 2014)
2B Aaron Rosen ’15 (.331/.396/.496, 0 HR, 19 RBI)
LF Cole DiRoberto ’15 (.301/.358/.376, 1 HR, 10 RBI)
CF Peter Cimini ’16 (.279/.367/.404, 1 HR, 20 RBI)
DH Chad Martin ’16 (.333/.362/.496, 4 HR, 30 RBI)
3B Sam Canales ’15 (.304/.368/.363, 0 HR, 13 RBI)
1B Erik Jacobsn ’15 (.277/.358/.349, 1 HR, 11 RBI)
C Chris Nadeau ’16 (.196/.327/.217, 0 HR, 3 RBI)
SS Sean Mullaney ’17 (.180/.349/.180, 0 HR, 6 RBI)
RF Joe Gentile ’18
RHP Henry Van Zant ’15 (1-2, 1.95 ERA)
RHP Erik Jacobson ’15 (3-3, 4.09 ERA)
LHP Harry Ridge ’16 (4-2, 2.87 ERA)
The offensive core returns for Bowdoin as six of the top seven OBP performers from last season are back. The bad news is that this group sputtered in conference play finishing with the second fewest runs scored. The top of the lineup should be very good with Aaron Rosen ’15, First Team All-NESCAC in 2014, getting things started. Peter Cimini ’16 and Chad Martin ’16 will look to build off of their breakout sophomore campaigns. Those two were two of the biggest positives from last season. They will need to provide most of the power for this lineup. Sam Canales ’15, Erik Jacobsen ’15 and Cole DiRoberto ’15 are line drive hitters who will be very solid cogs for Bowdoin. The bottom of the lineup is a big question mark. Both Chris Nadeau ’16 and Sean Mullaney ’17 played occasionally last season and hit below the Mendoza line. Joe Gentile ’18 is the frontrunner to grab the final outfield spot and has above average speed, but freshmen regularly struggle to adjust to collegiate pitching. The bottom of the lineup needs to be serviceable while the guys who have proven themselves must be special.
First of all, we lack the advanced stats or the extensive scouting that allow us to break down defense like they do at the professional level. From what we know, the Bowdoin defense was neither a strength or weakness overall, but they made some critical errors in conference that cost them. Cimini will have to replace speedy centerfielder Kyle LeBlanc ’14, and he is flanked by DiRoberto and Gentile, two players who are question marks defensively. The infield should be a strength with the duo of Rosen and Mullaney a potent double-play combination. Nadeau only threw out three of the 18 base runners who attempted to steal against him. That percentage must, and should, go up by a lot. The defense is unlikely to be a game-changer for Bowdoin, but they should be more sure handed and commit fewer errors than last season.
The strength of Bowdoin is a pitching staff that was very good despite injuries to their presumed top two starters. Now the staff that had the second best overall ERA behind Tufts returns their top four starters and closer. Ace Henry Van Zant ’15 was only able to pitch near the end of the season, but he looked great tossing a casual 1.95 ERA in 27.2 innings. Harry Ridge ’16 and Erik Jacobson ’15 both return after posting solid though not remarkable numbers. Jon Fraser ’15 emerged as a legitimate weapon out of the bullpen with an eye-popping 0.76 ERA to go with a 11.03 K/9 rate. Michael Staes ’16 also pitched very well and looks to be the first guy up if someone in front of him stumbles or gets hurt. Finally, keep an eye on freshman Logan Simon ’18, a freshman from recent baseball powerhouse Harvard-Westlake in California. He will get innings early on in Florida to get a good look at what he can do.
Storylines to Watch
1. How much do they steal?
Though Bowdoin doesn’t lose a lot of production from last year on offense, a good deal of their 40 steals from a year ago are no longer on the roster. Rosen is the only significant threat to steal a base, and even he only stole eight times in 2014. Cimini has good speed, but Manager Mike Connelly might be loathe to let him loose if Martin bats behind him. If the back end of the lineup gets on base more, Connelly might set them loose in order to create havoc on the base paths. On the other hand, the Polar Bears might choose to simply eschew stealing for the most part and instead concentrate on smart, safe base running.
2. Does SP Harry Ridge ’16 wear down again?
In each of the past two seasons, Ridge has started the season off by pitching a few games beautifully before seeing his numbers dip significantly in the second half. This might make sense if Ridge was a power pitcher unused to throwing so many innings, but he is actually a control pitcher who strikes few guys out even when he is pitching well. Why he has struggled so much in the second half is somewhat of a mystery, but the third time might be the charm. One of the problems for Ridge was the defense behind him committing a lot of errors with him on the mound. Some of that is because pretty much everybody puts balls in play against him, but he should have better luck this season.
3. Can the entire lineup hit?
This is probably the biggest question for the Polar Bears. The bottom three hitters in their lineup do not project to hit very well. That impact is huge as pitchers are able to relax and pound the zone for a couple of hitters. The best hitters for Bowdoin will not see as good pitches because opponents will depend on getting Bowdoin hitters out with runners on base. Big innings become very hard also. The best NESCAC teams have threats at every spot in the lineup. The Polar Bears don’t need Mullaney, Nadeau and company to hit like rock stars down there, but they need to at least put the ball in play and make the defense get them out. Bowdoin was near the league lead in strikeouts last season.
Biggest Series: At Bates April 3 and 4.
The good news for Bowdoin is that the second spot in the East behind Tufts looks wide-open, and they probably have the most returning talent of any of the remaining four teams. Bowdoin opens the NESCAC season against Tufts, but their series the next weekend against Bates will tell us whether this team is capable of returning to the playoffs. Taking two out of three will go a long way towards getting Bowdoin to the top of the heap. Last season Bates took two of three from Bowdoin in what turned out to be a huge series for the Bobcats. Also, we would be surprised if these games happen at Bates on schedule given all the snow still on the ground.
Last week we promised a big blowout of the Power Rankings, and today we deliver. We take a look at all the teams that won’t be making the playoffs this season and are done for 2014. We will cover what went right, what went wrong, and make a way too early prediction about how they will do in 2015. Thursday we will rank the four playoff teams.
10. Middlebury (5-24, 2-10)
What Went Right: Not very much. You have to hit bottom before you start going up again, and Middlebury baseball fans better hope that 2014 represents rock bottom. The only thing that really worked was Alex Kelly ’14 in the outfield and at the plate. Other positives for the Panthers to draw on were their improved pitching and defense. A young pitching staff battled all year with reliever Jake Stalcup ’17 having the best overall season. Max Araya ’16 also emerged as an above average offensive catcher who could serve as an anchor going forward, although there is some question about where he will start 2015 defensively. Middlebury struggled down the stretch winning only one of their last 13 games, but they looked better and more competitive than earlier in the year.
What Went Wrong: It might sound blunt, but there just wasn’t enough talent in Middlebury to compete. The statistics say that Middlebury had the worst hitting, fielding, and barely second worst pitching. You can’t help but sympathize for the seniors who have been there all four years and have watched as the program struggles to gain a foothold. Only one regular hit above .300 and no starter finished with an ERA under 4.50. This was simply a case of a season where nothing really went right for Middlebury. They had brief moments of competence and gave some of the top teams scares, but they weren’t good enough to get over the hump.
2015 Outlook: The key will be maintaining commitment during the offseason so that the Panthers return in 2015 ready to play. Players up and down the roster are going to have opportunities to get playing time, and it is simply a matter of who steps up when their number gets called. 2015 should be better for Middlebury, but they have a long way to go.
9. Hamilton (10-16, 2-10)
What Went Right: Hamilton and Middlebury were very similar teams this year. They both lacked depth, had pitching that held tough but couldn’t consistently get batters out, and struggled mightily fielding and hitting while sporting a fantastic leadoff hitter. For Hamilton, that was Joe Jensen ’15. He had a fantastic year with 23 stolen bases, 23 runs, and a .495 OBP. Hamilton’s best quality was their speed as they placed second in the NESCAC with 63 stolen bases. The other notable base stealers were Chris and Kenny Collins ’17. Of the two twins, Kenny finished the season especially strong with two three hit performances against Williams to help up his OBP to .422. Four of Hamilton’s top five batters in terms of plate appearances were freshmen who should see improvement in 2015.
What Went Right: The expected stars for this team were Zack Becker ’16 and Jjay Lane ’15, but both of them struggled to match their 2013 performances. Lane had an up-and-down season on the mound finishing with a 5.35 ERA. He never really found his groove and had trouble getting batters out in large part because he struck out only 3.74 batters per nine innings. Still, Becker had perhaps an even more disappointing year. Some regression was expected from his .434 OBP in 2013, but not many thought he would fall all the way to a .274 mark. By the end of the season he was a part time player because of his struggles. Overall, a very young lineup struck out this season with nobody capable of delivering the big hits that the Continentals needed.
2015 Outlook: Modest improvement should be expected from a Hamilton squad that showed potential early on. Almost everybody will be back besides a few secondary parts. If Lane gets straightened out then Hamilton will win at least four NESCAC games.
8. Trinity (16-17, 4-8)
What Went Right: Trinity showed a lot of resilience in their play down the stretch going on a nice winning streak and splitting against Wesleyan. Brian Wolfe ’15 stepped up to become the team’s best hitter over the course of the season, and his classmate Daniel Pidgeon ’15 enjoyed a successful season as well. Their pitching kept them in a lot of games, but the offense wasn’t powerful enough to take full advantage. Trinity won at least one game in every series, but they were incapable of ever going on a run in conference play to make a real move up the standings.
What Went Wrong: The schedule makers did no favors to this team with their four NESCAC series played on consecutive weekends. At one point, nine of ten games Trinity played had conference ramifications. We are used to watching powerful Trinity offenses, but those players just weren’t on the roster. The fact that they hit only two homers is telling. Trinity had almost every position player on its roster see significant playing time because nobody was playing well enough to make the coaches play them. The pitching staff was solid as mentioned above, but in college baseball you need pitchers who can singlehandedly win games for you. No one on Trinity was able to distinguish themselves as capable of that.
2015 Outlook: The East is all of a sudden very crowded, so expecting Trinity to simply return to the top is foolish. The offense will be better and the pitching potential is there, but anything better than a .500 season in the NESCAC will be a surprise for the Bantams.
7. Bowdoin (18-16-1, 5-7)
What Went Right: Young players who needed to step up did so in a big way. The most obvious of those were Peter Cimini ’16 and Chad Martin ’16. The duo went from non-factors in 2013 to the linchpins of the Bowdoin offense. Elsewhere Michael Staes ’16 emerged as a potential weekend starter for next season with a 2.29 ERA in 35.1 innings, and Jon Fraser ’15 also had a spectacular season in limited duty with a 0.76 ERA. The statistics said that Bowdoin underperformed as a team in conference. This was a team with some of the best pitching in the league, but lacked the ace that other teams had to shut down opponents. Bowdoin seemed to play every team when they were playing their best, but managed to win at least one game in every series.
What Went Wrong: Bowdoin graduated a superb class in 2013, but still had a lot of talented players in the 2014 class who were expected to lead this team. That just didn’t happen whether it was because of injury for Christian Martin ’14 or inconsistent play from John Lefeber ’14 and Duncan Taylor ’14. Lefeber and Taylor ended up with solid statistics, but they just weren’t the stars the team needed. The other big loss was not having Henry Van Zant ’15 available for most of the year. He flashed what he could do posting a 1.95 ERA in 27.2 innings. The team’s true weakness however was in the field where they had the second most errors in the NESCAC. 36.4 percent of the runs Bowdoin allowed this year were unearned.
2015 Outlook: The silver lining of a disappointing 2014 is that most of what went wrong won’t take away from the 2015 team. Van Zant should be healthy and the loss of all the seniors will not sting nearly as much as would have been believed before the season started. A return to the playoffs is definitely possible.
6. Colby (16-15, 5-7)
What Went Right: The final conference record is a disappointment, but Colby has a lot to be proud of from their 2014. We expected them to improve somewhat, but not many thought they would be on top of the East Division until April 18. The key was improvement by players already on the roster. Jason Buco ’15 delivered an MVP-quality season by leading the NESCAC with seven homers, and Kevin Galvin ’14 was a more than capable Robin to give him support. The biggest difference in 2014 though was the pitching. Scott Goldberg ’15 and Greg Ladd ’15 put in the work to become leaders of the staff while Soren Hanson ’16 showed he is also close to being an ace down the stretch. Overall the Mules improved their ERA by 1.90 runs in 2014.
What Went Wrong: Colby didn’t end up making the playoffs because the supporting cast was not strong enough to support the stars on offense. In their final six conference games Colby averaged only 1.17 runs as they went 1-5 against Bates and Tufts. Colby’s pitching was very good, but they would have needed a Herculean effort to win with that type of offense. In many ways Colby’s baseball performance mirrored that of their basketball and football teams. It was filled with promise and strong performances for most of the season (beating Bates for football and upsetting Amherst for basketball), but ended on a sour note (the Hail Mary loss to Bowdoin in football and the first round NESCAC tournament loss for basketball).
2015 Outlook: The trend is definitely in the positive direction. The only loss of real significance is Galvin. Whether other players can make similar leaps to what some did this year will make the difference in 2015. Right now I say Colby makes the playoffs next year.
5. Williams (13-16, 7-5)
What Went Right: Some people will draw issue with a team with a losing record being considered the fifth best team in the NESCAC, but we are weighting conference games heavily. Williams also split a doubleheader against Bowdoin so it’s record against NESCAC teams was 8-6. Again, detractors will point out six of those wins came against cellar dwellers Middlebury and Hamilton, but every NESCAC game is hard-fought. The best thing Williams did was beat the teams they should have in conference play. Their offense was scintillating in the early going with a host of players putting up gaudy numbers. The high point of their season came after they won their first game against Amherst in four years and stood at 4-1 in the NESCAC on April 5.
What Went Wrong: The pitching improved as the season went on, but was never reliable enough. Their teamwide statistics ended up being worse than last year underscoring the possibility they really didn’t improve at all in 2014. 2013 stats: .374 OBP and 5.73 ERA vs 2014 stats: .363 OBP and 6.46 ERA. They really struggled in non-conference play exposing the fact that they don’t have a lot of pitching depth. Williams squandered any chance at making the playoffs when they got swept by Wesleyan. The best pitching was able to make their offense struggle. Overall a very mixed year for a team that was riding high early on before reality set in a little in the middle part of the year.
2015 Outlook: Several key cogs have to be replaced as well as innings leader Steve Marino ’14, but there will still be a lot of firepower in Williamstown. However Williams probably won’t improve their conference record in 2015.