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.

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.

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.