Game Changers: Key Players for the Final NESCAC Weekend

As the final weekend series approach, the races for playoff bids are tightening up. Bates and Tufts battle for the top rank in the East while Amherst and Middlebury currently sit atop the West. Wesleyan, however can get back in the running for a spot in the postseason with a series win. Some seniors will say goodbye to NESCAC play and others will continue to fight for a championship. Check out the key players to watch for in this final NESCAC regular season weekend.

Bates @ Tufts

Bates: Connor Speed ‘18

Connor Speed ’18 (Courtesy of Colby Athletics)

Speed’s record does not even come close to representing the impressive season he has put together. Bates, despite a Division leading 7-2 record, have failed to give Speed the run support he deserves, resulting in a 1-3 record for the Bobcats’ number one starter. Speed has thrown a team high 35.2 innings in 7 starts. In these appearances, he has allowed only 10 earned runs for a 2.52 ERA. He has also struck out 33 batters, which stands at 6th in the league. The junior has compiled a solid season thus far, but his biggest start of the year is this weekend against the strong Tufts team only one game behind Bates in the standings. Speed looks to reproduce his outing against Bowdoin in which he went 8 innings strong giving up only 2 earned runs. His start will be critical for the Bobcats if they want to maintain their number one seed for the postseason.

Tufts: Ian Kinney ‘18

Ian Kinney ’18 (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

The Tufts pitching staff has been highlighted by reigning Pitcher of the Year Speros Varinos ‘17, who is likely to defend his title this spring. Behind him are pitchers Tim Superko and R.J. Hall, who have also put together solid seasons. However, a major key in the Jumbos success, is reliever Ian Kinney. He has consistently come out of the bullpen whenever needed and pitched well. Tied in 5th with 12 appearances, only one behind the league lead, Kinney has solidified himself as one of the best closers in the NESCAC. In these 12 appearances, Kinney has put together 4 saves, also one behind the league lead. He has pitched 18.1 innings with a 2.95 ERA and 21 strikeouts giving an outstanding 10.31 K/9 ratio. In this highly competitive weekend series, Tufts will need their number one reliever to continue his success. With much on the line, look for Coach Casey to use Kinney in tough situations and to close out tight games.

Colby @ Bowdoin

Colby: Ryder Arsenault ‘17

Ryder Arsenault ’17 (Courtesy of Colby Athletics)

In a lineup that has only hit .257 as a team, the Mules are looking for any bat to get hot. Arsenault, leading the team in at bats, has the potential to be that bat. Having reached base in six consecutive games, the lineup looks toward their senior leader to continue his streak in the series against Bowdoin. While his stats so far this season don’t necessarily pop out to the naked eye, Arsenault has shown his versatility throughout the year. His 109 at bats not only lead the team, but is second in the Conference, showing his durability. Additionally, while hitting a modest .275, Arsenault also stands second in the league for Sacrifice Flies. Also, even with all his plate appearances, the center fielder has only hit into one double play. Overall, Arsenault has done a little bit of everything for this struggling Colby offense. If he can pick it up, the Mules may be able to rally around their senior and score some runs against Bowdoin.

 Bowdoin: Sawyer Billings ‘18

Sawyer Billings ’18 (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics)

Billings has quietly put together a solid year at the plate despite the team hitting .259. Having played in 21 of the team’s 26 games, the utility player has hit .313 in 64 at bats. From those plate appearances, he has scored 9 runs, one behind the team lead as well as team leading 8 doubles. The Polar Bears hope that Billings can replicate his performance against Trinity this upcoming series against Colby. The junior went 5-9 with 4 runs and 5 RBI’s against the Bantams, while hitting 4 of his season total of 8 doubles. These at bats contributed heavily in the Bowdoin sweep over their opponent. A similar trend occurred against Tufts; if Billings hits well, the Polar Bears come out victorious. In their two loses, he went 0-5, but in the team’s win, the utility player went 2-4 with a run scored. Bowdoin hopes that Billings has himself a big weekend as they look to win the series.

Williams @ Hamilton

Williams: Jack Cloud ‘17

Jack Cloud ’17 (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Kellen Hatheway has gotten all the attention after his Rookie of the Year performance last season and now his bid for NESCAC Player of the Year. However, Cloud has been nothing short of excellent all season as well. The outfielder in his final season has put together 89 at bats in the two-hole resulting in a .337 average. He has scored 25 runs, or 15% of the teams total this season. For in-conference games, his 13 runs lead the league. Cloud has also shown speed on the base paths, with team leading 7 steals and 2 triples. He has shown consistency too, as the outfielder has reached base in 20 of the 22 games he has appeared in this season, getting at least one hit in 17 of them. Despite being eliminated from playoff contention, Williams looks to win the final NESCAC series of the year. If Cloud’s success continues, they should be able to do so. In terms of extra motivation, the senior will look to put his final stamp on NESCAC play this weekend against division opponent Hamilton.

 Hamilton: Finlay O’Hara ‘17

Finlay O’Hara ’17 (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

Finlay O’Hara has put together an impressive year, proving that he and fellow starter Dan DePaoli ’18 are one of the most dominant starting duos in the NESCAC. He has eight appearances with six starts totaling 36 innings exactly on the season so far, showing his versatility as a key arm for the Hamilton staff. For instance, he made a relief appearance in game 1 against Amherst in last weekend’s series, and then made the next day. His six starts have resulted in only a 3-2 record, but his ERA is a low 2.50. Not a strikeout pitcher, O’Hara has used his defense to get him out of jams. Without any chance for a playoff bid, Hamilton will play the rest of the season for seniors such as O’Hara in this upcoming series. In his last season on the bump, the senior looks to continue his success in his final NESCAC weekend start.

Amherst @ Wesleyan

Amherst: Zach Horwitz ‘20

Zach Horwitz ’20 (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Amherst is currently tied for first in the tough NESCAC West Division and can claim sole position of the one-seed with a sweep of Wesleyan. However, if they are swept, the team loses any shot of a bid and eliminated from contention. And the key player for this team is a freshman. Horwitz, despite being a rookie, has stepped up this year for Amherst. The team was looking for arms after successful veteran Jackson Volle ’17 and Horwitz did just that. Having pitched 26 innings (second to Volle), Horwitz has gone 2-0 in two starts with nine total appearances. The lefty has gained the trust of Coach Hamm, who will need him in this crucial weekend. Horwitz has done more than just pitch though. Also a first baseman, he has compiled 30 at bats and including a homerun and a triple. The rookie has proven he can contribute to the team in multiple ways, all of which will be needed this weekend. Horwitz’s success can drive this Amherst team right into the postseason.

 Wesleyan: Matt Jeye ‘18

Matt Jeye ’18 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Wesleyan’s offense has failed to live up to expectations this season. After dominating NESCAC pitchers last season and returning key bats, the Cardinals have only hit .283 this spring. However, Matt Jeye ’18 has consistently given power to the heart of the lineup. In 102 at bats so far, Jeye leads the team in both triples and homeruns. His homerun total is second among NESCAC hitters. However, what stands out most is Jeye’s ability to knock in runs. His total of 28 RBI’s is team leading by 8 and 3rd in the conference. Pitchers must be careful with Jeye at the plate as he easily has the power to get in scoring position or send home a run. The outfielder has accumulated 32 hits total which gives him an average of .314. His slugging percentage has risen to .480. Wesleyan needs to win the series this weekend to still have a chance to earn a postseason spot. To do so, the Cardinals will have to rely on Jeye’s bat to lead the offense against a tough Amherst squad.

Turnaround time for the Mules? Colby Season Preview

Preseason All-American Jabari Hurdle-Price '17 will be the focal point of the Colby offense once again in 2016 (Courtesy of Colby Athletics).
Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17 will be the focal point of the Colby offense once again in 2016 (Courtesy of Colby Athletics).

Projected Record: 1-7

Offensive Starters(*Six returning)

QB: Gabe Harrington ’17*
RB: Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17*
WR: Ryder Arsenault ’17
WR: Alex Kramer ’17*
WR: Mark Snyder ’18

TE:  Braden Wilson ’17
LT: Shane Normandeau ’19
LG: Will Julich ’17
C: Mike Roberts ’17*
RG: Anthony Cappellino ’17*
RT: Larry Patrizio ’17*

Defensive Starters(*Seven returning)

DE: Ben Hartford ’18
DT: Chris Marano ’17*
DT: Sam Gomez ’18
DE: Henry Wallrapp ’17*
OLB: Justin Lamere ’17*
MLB: Sam Friedman ’19
OLB: Bryan Mcadams ’18*
CB: Adam Balaban ’18*
SS: Will Caffey ’19*
FS: Ian Dickey ’18*
CB: Patrick Yale ’19*

Specialists (*Two Returning)

PK/P: John Baron ’18*

KR/PR: Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17*/Mbasa Mayikana ’18

Offensive MVP: Running Back Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17 

Colby’s offense is led by 2015 First Team All-NESCAC running back, Jabari Hurdle-Price. Hurdle-Price had a monster year in 2015 leading the mules in rushing, receiving and returns on special teams. The only factor preventing Hurdle-Price from these numbers in 2016 is the left side of the offensive line, which remains a big question mark for Colby. With consistency on the offensive line for the Mules, expect Hurdle-Price to put up even bigger numbers than he did last season. It will be interesting to see how opposing defenses prepare for the ground attack against Colby, as they were able to find the end zone ten times on the ground and only two times in the air.

Defensive MVP: Safety/Linebacker Ian Dickey ’18

Ian Dickey had a breakout season in 2015 and was second on the team with forty-three tackles. With leading tackler, Stephen O’Grady graduated, the Mules will depend upon Dickey to make even bigger plays for them. Last season, Dickey anchored a secondary that consisted of two freshmen. Having a full season of experience under his belt expect Dickey to have a breakout year for Colby.

Biggest Surprise of Camp: Injury Bug nowhere to be found.

In 2015, Colby lost many valuable players throughout the season via injuries. Losing players to injury coupled with a lack of both depth and experience resulted in a 1-7 season which put them dead last in the NESCAC. This past Saturday, Colby had a joint practice with Bates, and arguably the biggest positive coming out of this is that there were no injuries. Coach Michaeles remains optimistic about his program and knows the capability they have if they remain healthy in 2016.

Biggest Game: Bowdoin at Colby, 12:30 PM November 12, Waterville, Maine (Maine’s Super Bowl)

Colby starts their 2016 season in a hectic fashion. Normally, opening at Williams would be a good thing, but Williams recently hired the former St. Lawrence head coach, Mark Raymond. Raymond is one of the better division three football coaches and is known for his success in turning St. Lawrence into a winning football program. This will not be an easy opener for the Mules. Things do not get easier for Colby as they play Middlebury, Wesleyan and then Amherst in weeks two, three and four.

Fast Forward to week eight: A home CBB rivalry finale against Bowdoin. This game does not only mean a lot to the Colby football program, but it is one of the most highly anticipated events in Maine. In 2015 both teams were 1-6 going into this game and Bowdoin ended up winning 35-13. Colby was unable to score until late in the 3rd which summed up their lack of offense the entire season. Having the home field advantage and experience in both the offense and defense, expect this week eight battle to go down to the wire.

Best Tweet:

I believe the saying goes: “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in the morning, Colby opponents take warning.”


Summary: Colby’s 1-7 season in 2015 was attributed to their inability to find the end zone. They were struck with the injury bug early on and were unable to adjust from there. In order to improve from their disappointing season, Colby will need more production and consistency from their offense as well as to remain healthy throughout. They have the talent to win some quality NESCAC football games, but they need their offense to produce. Although his 2015 numbers are discouraging, coach Michaeles has full faith in senior Gabe Harrington to lead the offense. Harrington had a solid season in 2014 and his performance will determine whether or not the Mules’ offense will succeed. Michaeles also has the option of junior Christian Sparacio who gained some experience in 2015 and will definitely compete for snaps. The one position that has been locked in since the end of 2015 is the starting running back position. Jabari Hurdle-Price looks to continue where he left off last season as he was arguably one of the best athletes in the NESCAC. Hurdle-Price was the only consistent spark in the Mules’ offense a year ago. Behind Hurdle-Price is running back Carl Lipani. Lipani provides Colby with plenty of depth at running back. A big asset for the Mules offense this season is the return of wide receiver Ryder Arsenault. Arsenault missed major time in 2015 due to injury and has been a consistent target for them in the past, leading the team in receptions in2014. Alex Kramer and Mark Snyder will look to compete for reps at wide receiver. Braden Wilson will be at tight end for the Mules after starting the final four games of last season. With improvements in the air attack, Colby could be a dangerous football team on offense.

On defensive, Colby will look to fill the void of leading tackler and captain Stephan O’Grady as well as All-NESCAC defensive end Ryan Ruiz and defensive tackle Harry Nicholas. Replacing the graduated O’Grady will be Sophomore Sam Friedman. As a Freshman in 2015, Friedman recorded nineteen tackles in six games. Additionally, the Mules will look towards senior Bryan McAdams and junior Justin Lamere to produce for them at linebacker. Senior Henry Wallrapp provides experience on the defensive line at strong side defensive end. Replacing Ruiz and Nicholas will be Gerry Nvule, Chris Marano, Sam Gomez and Ben Hartford. Colby’s secondary was filled with underclassmen in 2015. Ian Dickey started all eight games at safety as a sophomore and was second on the team in tackles behind O’Grady. The youngest part of their secondary was Will Caffey and Patrick Yale who started at both cornerback positions as freshmen. These three are locks for starting jobs this season but the other safety position is up for grabs. John Baron will be the place kicker and punter for the mules in 2016. Last season, Baron went four for five in field goal opportunities, including a thirty-seven yarder against Tufts. He was seven for eleven in extra point opportunities. With a more productive offense in 2016, Baron will have more opportunities to put points on the board for Colby.


It’s Not Your Imagination, Passing is Up in the NESCAC: Part Two

If you missed Part One yesterday, here you go. Otherwise, read on.


tuftsRanked seventh in passing yards per game, Tufts is one of the few teams that isn’t passing the ball more this season. QB Alex Snyder ’17 doesn’t have the completion percentage of his predecessor, Jack Doll ’15 (who completed 70 percent of his passes), but he’s averaging more passing yards per game (191.7 to Doll’s 186.5). Snyder’s advantage in this regard can be explained by the fact that the Jumbos are averaging more than 50 yards per game this season than they did the last. All things considered, their passing game isn’t seeing the volume it has in recent years. Considering Snyder’s 173 pass attempts thus far in 2015, Tufts offensive scheme is very unlike the one that encouraged QB John Dodds ’13 to throw the ball nearly 350 times in 2012. Averaging close to 13 receiving touchdowns over the previous four seasons, the Jumbos offense is on pace to fall short of that average this fall, having found the end zone through the air only six times through week six.

Instead, RB Chance Brady ’17 has become the pinnacle of the offense. Averaging 104.2 ground yards per game, Brady has rushed for nine touchdowns. Despite Tufts dynamic ground game, its receivers are still producing. WR Mike Rando ’17 leads the team in receiving with 28 receptions. Ben Berey ’17, while not reproducing at the same clip that he did last year (38 receptions, one TD), is contributing to Tufts’ pass production with 13 receptions for 166 yards and a touchdown. The Tufts passing game is clearly not the same threat that it has been in recent years, but it remains a large part of its offensive production. The Jumbos feel that the way to success in the NESCAC is predicated by running the ball first and foremost. They will retain the ability to throw the ball a lot, but the rushing game will become more and more important.

Verdict: Enduring. But not likely to increase in the near future.


WesleyanWesleyan is like Amherst in that its running game is just as valuable as its passing game. Through Week 6, the Cardinals are averaging basically the same amount of yards through the air and ground. QB Gernald Hawkins ’18 has averaged 157.0 passing yards per game but has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns. Unlike QB Jesse Warren ’15, who threw for 190 yards per game while firing 15 touchdowns, Hawkins’ arm is not what makes him a dangerous offensive weapon. Simply put, Warren wasn’t a threat on the ground; Hawkins is. He led the Cardinals in rushing through five weeks, until he was held out of most of the Bowdoin game because of health concerns.

Wesleyan’s running attack is paced by Jaylen Berry ’18, who has managed 59.5 yards per game and two touchdowns. WR Devon Carillo ’17 leads the team in touchdowns (five) and poses a significant threat as a productive pass-catcher (10 receptions). WR Mike Breuler ’16, who had only two receptions in 2014, has emerged as Hawkins’ top target. He has hauled in 29 receptions, making him the only player other than Carillo to break the double digit plateau. The ability of Hawkins and Mark Piccirillo ’19 to run the ball helps keep the defense honest and opens up the passing game, but the Cardinals are a team that ideally wants to be running the ball the majority of the time.

Verdict: Temporary. The Cardinals want to run the ball first and foremost.


colbyColby threw the ball nearly 300 times last fall, which accounted for over half of their plays. Through six weeks, the Mules have let the ball fly just 42.4 percent of the time. With an average of 150 passing yards per game, Colby is averaging fewer yards through the air than they have in three of their previous four seasons. QB Gabe Harrington ’17 has struggled to find consistency with his receivers, throwing for only one touchdown with nine interceptions. He is completing nearly 52.7 percent of his passes, but almost a fifth of them are short passes to RB Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17. Last season, WR Ryder Arsenault ’17 emerged as a leader of the WR core with 25 receptions for 263 yards and four touchdowns. As Arsenault has dealt with an injury that he sustained during Week 2 at Middlebury, Mark Snyder ’18 has stepped up in a big way. Snyder has been Harrington’s go-to guy in Colby’s passing attack, recording 25 receptions for 229 yards and a score. Colby has incorporated running backs into their passing game more this season, as Hurdle-Price is already converging on his receptions total from last year.

On the ground, the junior running back is averaging 101.8 yards per game while accounting for half of the Mules’ eight touchdowns. In 2014, 11 of the 17 touchdowns Colby scored were passing, but this year only one of the nine has been. Against Bates and Bowdoin, Colby should have better luck and improve their passing numbers. Even so, the passing offense has taken a step back from where it was, and it is unclear if a quality quarterback is on the roster right now.

Verdict: Temporary. This dip won’t last as they will get back to passing the ball.


batesI’ve heard it said that a rising tide lifts all ships. This fall, Bates is challenging that claim. After averaging only 116 passing yards per game over the past three seasons, Bates has thrown the ball with more efficiency at 130 yards per game, but the volume has essentially stayed the same. Bates has not topped 170 pass attempts in the last five seasons, and it’s unlikely that QB Patrick Dugan ’16 is going to change that this year. Dugan has attempted 122 passes thus far, which is similar to the pace QB Matt Cannone ’15 set last fall. When Dugan throws the ball in the air, it’s extremely likely that WR Mark Riley ’16 is going to be on the receiving end of the play. Riley has carried the receiving core with 33 receptions and 382 yards, which is nearly half of the team’s receiving yards.

Like Colby, Bates much prefers to run the ball, but the schemes the two teams run are of course very different. RB Ivan Reese ’17 has handled the bulk of the carries, and slot back Frank Williams ’18 has run the ball for an average of 40.7 yards per game and a team high three touchdowns. Seven of the team’s eleven scores have come on the ground, and the Reese/Williams combination has accounted for six of them. Obviously since Bates runs the triple option, they are not going to suddenly start airing it out.

Verdict: Enduring. The Bobcats are not about to start the throwing the ball more.

Final Tally

  • Teams throwing the ball more: Seven (All but Tufts, Colby, and Bates)
  • Number of teams throwing the ball more which are expected to continue doing so: Five (Trinity and Wesleyan are temporary in our minds)

Despite the graduation of two successful quarterbacks last season in Jack Doll and Jesse Warren, names like Sonny Puzzo and Reece Foy have filled the void. Multiple receivers have burst onto the scene in 2015 and quarterbacks are taking full advantage of big play opportunities through the air. Whereas only six receivers averaged over 50 yards per game last season, there are 14 topping that mark this fall. Only one NESCAC receiver, Mark Riley, managed over 70 receiving yards in 2014, with 71.5. That number has been topped by six receivers thus far, with Middlebury’s Matt Minno leading the group at 98.0

Teams’ receiving arsenals are becoming the focus on offense, and secondaries are being exploited like never before. Middlebury has long been the only NESCAC team worthy of high praise for its aerial attack, but 2015 has created a different narrative. An outlier in much of recent history, the Panthers passing game is being converged upon. Smash mouth football has receded as the norm in the NESCAC and more exciting offenses have emerged. This isn’t just a short-term uptick either. Yes, there are some younger secondaries that are being exploited, but the vast majority of QBs will be back next year. They will have another year of experience. New NESCAC coaches are more willing to throw the ball than their predecessors. Buckle up because this trend is not going to stop.

More than the Main Course: Weekend Preview 10/9


The Bantams hope to keep their sparkling record and scoreless streak alive. (Courtesy of Robert LeBel)
The Bantams hope to keep their sparkling record and scoreless streak alive. (Courtesy of Robert LeBel)

Amherst and Middlebury is the main attraction this weekend, and Joe broke that down in detail yesterday, but the other four games still offer plenty to chew on. Trinity and Wesleyan are heavy home favorites against Hamilton and Colby respectively, but those games are still important measuring sticks. Bowdoin has beaten Tufts five straight times, and it would certainly behoove the Polar Bears to extend that streak to six in order to get their first win of the year. Bates and Williams meet in Western Massachusetts as both teams are in need of a win.

Four to Watch

1. Defensive End Zach Thomas ’18 (Tufts):

Zach Thomas
Tufts Athletics

Last year Thomas saw the field mostly as a kicker filling in for the injured Willie Holmquist ’16, and he has played great through two games at DE after playing there sparingly in 2014. He had 2.5 sacks against Bates, two of which came on third down to end Bates’ drives. Bowdoin allowed six sacks last week (admittedly Amherst is a different animal than most), and Thomas will get plenty of chances to rush the QB if Tufts gets up early. Along with Shane Thomas ’17 (no relation), the sophomore is part of a young group who are emerging for Tufts as difference makers, something that the Jumbos have lacked for a long time.

Shane Thomas '17 (56) is emerging as a force, leading the Jumbos in tackles. (Courtesy of Josh Kuckens/Bates College)
LB Shane Thomas ’17 (56) is emerging as a force and nice complement to DE Zach, leading the Jumbos in tackles. (Courtesy of Josh Kuckens/Bates College)

2. Wide Receiver Colin Brown ’16 (Williams):

Colin Brown
Williams Athletics

Brown and fellow wide out Darrias Sime ’16 probably spent much of the week drooling at the tape of Jack Cooleen ’16 ripping up the Bates secondary. Brown is 6’5″, but he was shut down last week against Trinity. A year ago he had by far his best game of the season against Bates hauling in eight catches for 96 yards. The young Bates secondary has to figure some way of forcing Brown and Sime to be physical, not just when the ball is in the air but also at the line of scrimmage. Unfortunately, that lies outside of how Bates usually plays, meaning that Brown should get a lot of clean breaks off of the line. Once he gets moving, he is much more difficult to stop.

3. Running Back Nick Gaynor ’17 (Trinity):

Nick Gaynor
Trinity Athletics

Hats off to Gaynor who has transitioned to running back almost as smoothly as one could hope. Given the long history of Trinity backs, nobody expected the Bantams to have to turn to a wide receiver. He has answered the call averaging 4.5 yards per carry so far. He still retains some of his receiver instincts to cut outside and only try to run through arm tackles, but that is also playing to his strengths as a shifty runner. The one concern for Gaynor is his three fumbles so far. Those are the only turnovers that Trinity has had all year. Freshman Max Chipouras ’19 could take carries away from Gaynor as the year goes along, but for now Gaynor is the signature back for the Bantams.

4. Defensive Lineman Tyler Hudson ’19 (Hamilton):

Hamilton Athletics

The Continental defense has looked much better in 2015, and Hudson has been a stud for them already as a freshman. He was everywhere against Tufts with 4.5 TFLs, and he proved that it wasn’t a fluke against Wesleyan with a sack and pass batted down. His 5.5 TFL are the most in the league. Hudson is from Whitesboro, New York which is a 15-minute drive away from Hamilton. Coach Dave Murray is a longtime coach and recruiter in Central New York, and Hudson is exactly the type of football player that Murray is trying to convince to stay close to home. Already……….

Game Previews

Bowdoin (0-2) at Tufts (2-0): Medford, Massachusetts, 1:00 PM

These two met last year with the same records, and the result was Bowdoin’s first win of the year. The Jumbos have found a way to take that magic oil that helped them win all four home games on the road the first two weeks, eeking out an overtime win and a one-point win. They are still not a great football team, but they are coming close to good and that’s enough to beat the lower half of the league. Chance Brady ’17 might not play because of a concussion, but Dom Borelli ’19 has looked good as the backup running back so far.

Bowdoin has looked pretty listless in their first two games. QB Tim Drakeley ’17 has thrown the ball well, but the Polar Bears have been forced to get away from running the ball with Tyler Grant ’17 because they have fallen behind so quickly. The defense, especially that secondary, has to play better as a unit. Until Bowdoin wins a game, you have to pick against them.

Prediction: Tufts over Bowdoin 19-13

Hamilton (0-2) at Trinity (2-0): Hartford, Connecticut. 1:00 PM

The easy opening schedule for Trinity continues, though the Bantams beat Hamilton by just 12 points last year. That game was at Hamilton, and the Bantams don’t have to worry about a long bus ride this year. Sonny Puzzo ’18 is playing great, attacking the defense downfield and not making any mistakes.

Hamilton is going to struggle unless Trinity suddenly catches the turnover bug. They don’t have the athletes to match up with Trinity in the open field, and they can’t sell out against the run like they did against Wesleyan. Charles Ensley ’17 and Pat Donahoe ’16 are underrated receivers, but even they will have trouble against the Trinity secondary. The scoreless streak ends, but the Bantams still cruise.

Prediction: Trinity over Hamilton 28-6

Bates (0-2) at Williams (1-1): Williamstown, Massachusetts. 1:00 PM

QB Austin Lommen '16 and the Ephs could find no room to operate against the Bantams last weekend. (Courtesy of Robert LeBel)
QB Austin Lommen ’16 and the Ephs could find no room to operate against the Bantams last weekend. (Courtesy of Robert LeBel)

On the surface this is the same Williams team we saw last year: an easy win over Bowdoin before a shutout loss to Trinity. However, I think the Ephs have more going for them this year. Much of that rests on the shoulders of Austin Lommen ’16, and despite subpar statistics from him last week, I think he bounces back against Bates. Mark Pomella ’16 is there as a change of pace quarterback, but the Ephs will win or lose because of Lommen. The running game has not improved much, and the Ephs can be made one-dimensional. That might not be a terrible thing against Bates.

Williams’ biggest worry is that their young defense wilts against the triple option, though the Bobcats haven’t been very successful moving the ball so far this year. Shaun Carroll’s ’16 statistics are inflated by one 80-yard run, and the Bobcats have not sustained enough drives. After their tough loss last week, this game is a test of the Bobcats leadership and resilience. Bottom line for me is I see the Williams offense capitalizing at points a week after Trinity gave them chances to make plays and the Ephs failed every time.

Prediction: Williams 27 – Bates 20

Colby (0-2) at Wesleyan (1-1): Middletown, Connecticut. 1:00 PM

Colby has struggled to run the ball and is going up against a Wesleyan team that suffocates teams when they run. Gabe Harrington ’17 might throw the ball 30 times in this game, and he needs receivers like Ryder Arsenault ’17 to get open much more consistently than they have. Last week against Middlebury the only success that Colby had in the passing game was a few go-up-and-get-’ems from young wideout Mark Snyder ’18.

If Wesleyan’s talent is going to coalesce into a very good football team, this is the week for them to do it. A big victory would give the team a huge boost in confidence. Justin Sanchez ’17 has been relatively quiet, and tomorrow would be a great time for him to intercept Harrington once or twice. The front seven has already proven that it is up to snuff with Shayne Kaminski ’18 and Jordan Stone ’17 helping to lead the way. The Mules don’t have the horses (bad pun intended) to hang for four quarters.

Prediction: Wesleyan 30 – Colby 10

Puzzo Drives the Bants to No. 1: Power Rankings 10/2

QB Sonny Puzzo '18 (#13) and the Bantams were far too much for Colby to handle last Saturday. (Courtesy of Robert LeBel)
QB Sonny Puzzo ’18 (#13) and the Bantams were far too much for Colby to handle last Saturday. (Courtesy of Robert LeBel)

1. Trinity (1-0; Last week: 3)

As Trinity blew past Colby in the season’s opener in Maine, it became apparent that the loss of running back Joe Moreno ’19 to an ACL tear may not plague the Bantams as much as previously thought. While QB Sonny Puzzo ’18 piled up 278 passing yards, the Bantams also accumulated 161 rushing yards, which gives credit to their depth at running back. Trinity’s defense emerged as a menace shutting out Colby and limiting them to a total of 159 yards while making three sacks and three interceptions. The hype is up – the Bantams are the real deal.

2. Amherst (1-0; Last week: 2)

Amherst had a strong first week accumulating, the most points in the NESCAC. The defense had a hiccup allowing Bates to rush for two touchdowns, one which came on Bates’ first play, an 80-yard run by slotback Shaun Carrol ’16. Their offense looked very balanced, splitting their 556 net yards between rushing and passing. Reece Foy ’18 has a lot of receiving options, and they will continue to mix it up with an array of running backs.

3. Middlebury (1-0; Last week: 1)

The Panthers had a nail-biter last week. Wesleyan could have easily stolen the number three spot in these ranks with a win, but Middlebury got the job done like we all expected. Quarterback Matt Milano ’16 threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns. Middlebury was on their heels all game and averaged a half yard on 22 carries. The Panthers were lucky to come away with a win last week.

4. Wesleyan (0-1; Last week: 4)

Despite losing in Week 1, the Cardinals showed some real promise taking a good Middlebury team to the finish. Despite Gernald Hawkins ’18 throwing two interceptions, he showed flashes of excellence, and if he is able to tune up his passing game, this team could go the distance and win a NESCAC championship. The Wesleyan defense completely shut down the Middlebury running game, but the Cardinals walked away from last week’s game very disappointed.

5. Williams (1-0; Last week: 8)

A good Williams team moves up to the fifth spot this week after a convincing win over Bowdoin. They were able to control the game rushing for 150 yards and holding the ball for 38 of 60 minutes. However, the Ephs manhandled Bowdoin last year in the season-opener, too, and went on to finish 2-6. Williams will be put to the test Saturday as they travel to Hartford to take on the Bantams.

6. Bates (0-1; Last week: 7)

Bates lost to a great team in Amherst, and despite allowing 37 points, they were able to put up 316 total yards on offense and two touchdowns. Still, besides Carroll’s 80-yard touchdown run, he picked up an average of 2.25 yards per carry. Bates will take on Tufts this week, who escaped an overtime win against Hamilton.

7. Tufts (1-0; Last week: 5)

Tufts mixed up the pass and run game to edge out the Continentals by three points in overtime. Chance Brady ’18 racked up 117 rushing yards and two touchdowns, so look for him to help lead the Jumbos to more wins this season.

8. Hamilton (0-1); Last week: 10)

Hamilton put up a great fight against Tufts and showed great passion. Despite being down 21-0 at the half and losing their starting QB to an ankle injury, they were able to force the game into overtime. I am not sure Hamilton will break the losing streak this season, but you must give credit where credit is due, and the Continentals don’t deserve the 10 spot this week.

9. Colby (0-1; Last week: 6)

Colby did not look good in Week 1 – the only team unable to get on the scoreboard. Part of the equation, too, is that Colby ran into an inspired Trinity team on Saturday. The Mules’ Gabe Harrington ’17 was unable to get it done behind center, and wide receiver Ryder Arsenault ’17 needs to make more of an impact at wide receiver.

10. Bowdoin (0-1; Last week: 9)

Last in the ‘CAC is a tough pill to swallow, but it is no surprise as Bowdoin is in a rebuilding season. On the upside, Tim Drakeley ’17 did pass for 248 yards, so there is some hope with his arm if he can sharpen his completion percentage (53.8 percent).

Offense Needs to Make Strides for Mules: Colby Season Preview

The Colby defense makes a goal line stand against Amherst on October 11, 2014. (Courtesy of Mark Box of Clarus Studios)

Editors’ Note: While 99 percent of the work done in these previews is credited directly to the author, the projected records are a decision made together by the editors, Adam and Joe. So if you don’t like it, blame us.

Projected Record: 2-6

Offensive Starters (*Seven Returning)

QB: Gabe Harrington ’17*
RB: Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17*
FB: Rob Murray ’16*
WR: Ryder Arsenault ’17*
WR: Mbasa Mayikana ’18
TE: Glenn Parsons ’16*
LT: Jesse Eddy ’16*
LG: Drew Choos ’16*
C: Mike Roberts ’17
RG: Andrew Ferraro ’16
RT: Larry Patrizio ’17

Projected Defensive Starters (*Four Returning)

DE: Ryan Ruiz ’16*
DT: Chris Marano ’17*
DT: Harry Nicholas ’16*
DE: Henry Wallrapp ’17
OLB: Connor Rozinsky ’16
MLB: Stephen O’Grady ’16*
OLB: Ryan Neville ’16
CB: Adam Balaban ’18
SS: Justin Lamere ’17
FS: Ian Dickey ’18

Offensive MVP: Running Backs Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17 and Carl Lipani ’17

Optimism for this season begins with the talented pair of junior running backs. Lipani has played a lot from day one, and he started off last year in a big way with 133 yards on 20 carries against Trinity. Then he was lost for the season after the second game against Middlebury. Hurdle-Price showcased his skills the rest of the season and finished the season fourth in the NESCAC with 553 yards. Both are also capable pass-catchers and will be used there also to help make things easier in the passing game. There will be a lot of carries to go around, and these two could be on the field at the same time at points too. They have pretty overlapping skill sets, but those skill sets are both very diverse and will present defenses with a lot of problems.

Defensive MVP: Linebacker Stephen O’Grady ’16

At least he better be. OK, that is putting too much pressure on the senior, but the biggest weakness for Colby is their back seven on defense, and O’Grady can do a lot to help shore it up. He missed the first four games of 2014 with injury but returned in the second half to record 19 tackles and help Colby to their 2-2 finish . The Mules lost their top two tacklers and need to fill that production immediately. O’Grady had 39 tackles as a sophomore, and he figures to have even more than that from his middle linebacker position. The good news for Colby fans is that O’Grady has looked great in camp and has taken well to being a leader on defense.

Biggest Surprise of Camp: Smoothness of Transition to New Coaches

So this isn’t your usual pick for this, but Colby has gone through a lot of turnover in its coaching staff in recent years. The Mules are technically on their third Offensive Coordinator in as many years as Head Coach Jonathan Michaeles takes over the play-calling duties. Long-time Defensive Coordinator Tom Dexter is also still around in Waterville. Overall, Michaeles is more than happy with the additions of Coaches Matt Dugan, Sean Conerly, and Alex Kretzschmar. The coaching staff has been able to focus on the players, both on and off the field, and Michaeles is excited about what this group can do going forward.

Biggest Game: Bates at Colby, 1:00 PM October 31, Waterville, Maine

The Mules once again start their season with a murderers row of Trinity, Middlebury, Wesleyan and  Amherst. From there the schedule gets easier, and this game represents the beginning of the CBB. The game last year was a classic with Bates coming back to win 34-28 in overtime in front of a big crowd in Lewiston. QB Gabe Harrington ’17 had one of the more interesting stat lines in this one, going 13-38 (34.2 percent) but also throwing for 234 yards and four TDs. A major challenge for Colby will be slowing down Bates receiver Mark Riley ’16 who had five catches for 109 yards last year. Colby will be primed for this game in a big way, and a win is essential in order to wrest the CBB away from Bates.


Last year’s squad was sunk in large part because the front end of their schedule decimated the depth chart with injuries. Even still, Colby was a late Bates comeback away from taking the CBB, and they will have a chance to capture that crown this season if their offense clicks. Harrington is of course the key to all of this. Last year he showed flashes of the phsyical ability to make all the throws, and he finished the season fifth in the league in YPG with 177.9. However, he forced way too many balls and had an 11:9 TD:INT ratio and an ugly 48.5 completion percentage. Michaeles is focusing on letting Harrington make simpler throws. The Head Coach thinks it took the QB a little time to settle into the position, but he was more willing to take what the defense gave him and even began to run the ball a little in the second half. Harrington needs to be more consistent and let his skill players make plays

Elsewhere on offense, the wide receiver position is fine despite the graduations of Luke Duncklee ’15 and Nick Joseph ’15. Ryder Arsenault ’17 takes over as the primary target and will be the first place Harrington looks on most downs. Arsenault ended up leading the team in catches last year with 25 and should surpass that total. Across from him, one of our Breakout Players, Mbasa Mayikana ’18, will also get a lot of chances, especially on deep balls where the track athlete excels. Fullback Rob Murray ’16 has had a very productive camp and will help as a lead blocker and a receiver. Tight End Glenn Parsons ’16 is used primarily as a blocker, but he could become a crucial safety valve in the passing game. Finally the offensive line has the chance to be good, but they could struggle with depth (a concern for many NESCAC teams) as the season goes along even though Michaeles wants to start the season rotating some positions along the line.

As mentioned above, the defense lost a lot of talent, and the strength of the unit is clearly on the defensive line where four year starter and captain Ryan Ruiz ’16 is the anchor. The Colby defense struggled in part because of their inability to create turnovers or sacks, and they lose defensive back Jason Buco ’15 who was responsible for seven of the nine total turnovers. The defensive line will have to be not only stout against the run, but also find a way to consistently get to the quarterback in order to keep the inexperienced back end of the secondary get exposed too often. Jack Muntu-Caron ’17 might not start at defensive end, but he is an intriguing talent after having three sacks in just five games.

The secondary is going to be an adventure early on, and the game against Middlebury in Week 2 will be extremely difficult. Ian Dickey ’18 and Justin Lamere ’17 finished the season starting a couple of game, and their experience is important there. Neither registered much in the way of pass defense, but they did a good job coming up against the run. Last year receivers Joseph and Duncklee both saw time at defensive back to help shore up the back line. The Mules were a middle of the road pass defense a season ago, and the hope is that the new guys are coached up quickly.

Michaeles has shown he is more than flexible and will work hard to get the 22 best athletes on the field in some way. That might mean moving somebody like backup QB Michael Ecke ’17 to wide receiver or cornerback if the need arises. The Mules have some talent and they could find themselves in some exciting high scoring games if Harrington develops in his second year. Ultimately that tough schedule and inexperienced defense will cause issues and keep the Mules from climbing back into the middle of the pack.

Best Tweet: This is what we call ‘playing to your strengths.’

NESCAC Stars Summer Baseball Update

We have been quiet this summer, busy with other endeavors and soaking up the sun. However, many NESCAC baseball players have spent the summer playing ball, often in the highly competitive collegiate leagues that feature Division One players and future high draft picks. Overall we found less NESCAC players in top-tier leagues this summer, but the numbers tend to fluctuate year-to-year. We focus on the New England summer leagues here, but leave a comment about any other players we missed and we will make sure to give them recognition.

 Cape Cod League

Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics
Gavin Pittore ’16

Bourne Braves Pitcher Gavin Pittore ’16 (Wesleyan): The only player from the NESCAC on a Cape League team at this stage of July, no NESCAC player has had a better summer than Pittore. After finishing the NESCAC season with a 1.53 ERA, Pittore has carried over his success to the Cape League which is widely considered the best summer league in the country and is littered with future MLB first round draft picks. A year ago he spent the season on the Harwich Mariners but pitched sparingly. This summer he has become a vital part of the Braves bullpen with 10 appearances so far. Incredibly Pittore is yet to allow an earned run over 14.2 IP. He has struck out 17 batters and has a WHIP of 0.75. That success has rocketed Pittore into prominence among scouts so much so that even though he didn’t get drafted last month, he might sign with an MLB team soon and forego his senior year at Wesleyan.

New England Collegiate Baseball League

Connor Colombo '16
Connor Colombo ’16

Valley Blue Sox Pitcher Connor Colombo ’16 (Bates): This spring was a breakout campaign for the tall Bates right-hander, and Colombo has proven that his performance wasn’t a fluke with solid pitching this summer. In 24.2 IP, he owns a 3.28 ERA in what is considered by many the second-best college baseball summer leageu. Colombo has acted as both a starter and long reliever in his six appearances, and he has a 1-1 record. Though he has only struck out 11 batters, Colombo has done a good job of keeping the ball in the park and not allowing too many hard hit balls. He also is the only player in the NESCAC who has managed to stick on an NECBL team this summer which is a much lower number than in past years.

 Futures League

Courtesy of Colby Athletics
Courtesy of Colby Athletics

Seacoast Mavericks Outfielder Ryder Arsenault ’17 (Colby): After another successful spring for the Mules, Arsenault has received extensive playing time for the Mavericks. However, this has been a difficult summer for Arsenault who now sits well below the Mendoza line with a .183 batting average. A recent slump has really torpedoed his statistics as he was hitting a much more respectable .250 on June 24. Still, Arsenault has been able to see a lot of pitches at a high level of baseball, and it is also possible that he is dealing with an injury since he has not stolen one base after snagging 20 this past spring.

North Shore Navigators Pitchers Speros Varinos ’17 (Tufts), Tim Superko ’17 (Tufts), and Rob DiFranco ’16 (Bates): We do a three-for-one for a Navigators staff that relies heavily on all three NESCAC pitchers. Relievers Varinos and DiFranco are first and third on the team in ERA with a 1.74 and 2.18 respectively. Starter Superko has started six games and owns a sporty 2.57 ERA. DiFranco started the season in the Cape League, but he has returned to the Navigators for his third season there where he has bounced back from a subpar conference season this spring. Varinos has not had an opportunity to get much shine behind all the other stars for Tufts, but he has been excellent this summer coming out of the bullpen and earned a spot on the Futures League All-Star team. Finally, Superko has looked good as a starter. One concern for Superko is that his walk rate is still way to high. He has a whopping 24 walks in only 28 innings.

Chad Martin '16
Chad Martin ’16

North Shore Navigators First Baseman Chad Martin ’16 (Bowdoin): Martin has been pretty much the same player he was this spring but with less power. He has benefited from playing every day as he leads the Navigators in at bats with 148, more than he had all spring. Hitting in the middle of the lineup has provided Martin plenty of opportunities to drive runs in and he is second on the team with 23 RBIs while batting .291. Martin has been especially hot lately with multiple hits in his four of his last five games and at least one hit in eight of his last nine.

Brockton Rox Pitcher Andrew David ’16 (Tufts) and Martha’s Vineyard Sharks Zach Brown ’18 (Tufts): Both of these Tufts pitchers are going to be at the All-Star game tonight (it’s in Lynn if anyone is interested!) along with Varinos meaning the Jumbos have a full triumvirate on the squad. For David, this summer has been a continuation of a bounce back spring for him in the NESCAC. The key has been a newfound ability to strike guys out, and he has 25 Ks in 31 innings to propel him to a 2.32 ERA. Brown is having a sensational summer as a starter after being a reliever for most of the spring. He has started six games, his only appearances, and has a sparkling 1.74 ERA. Brown is in the same mold of Superko as a guy who gets a lot of strikeouts but also walks a lot of guys. If he can carry over his pitching from this summer into the rotation next spring, the Jumbos will have a top three of him, David and Superko which is pretty formidable especially given all the pitching Tufts has lost in the last two years.

Soren Hanson '16
Soren Hanson ’16

Martha’s Vineyard Sharks Soren Hanson ’16 (Colby): By chance I saw Hanson pitch last Thursday against the Nashua Silver Knights. He went 6.2 innings and allowed only one run, though he did not collect the win. Hanson relied heavily on his curveball, throwing it early in counts to get called strikes and not just swings and misses. The start brought his overall ERA to 3.43, the lowest it has been since after his first start of the season. Hanson has not been hitting at all this season unlike he did for Colby, leaving that instead for his teammates and fellow NESCAC players Wesleyan shortstop Guy Davidson ’16 and Jack Roberts ’17. In fact, along with Williams catcher and Nothing But NESCAC contributor Adam Dulsky ’18, the Sharks have four NESCAC players on the roster. Hey, you can’t call NESCAC players stupid. Who wouldn’t want to spend the summer on Martha’s Vineyard playing baseball?

Rivals Meet in Busy Slate: Weekend Preview 4/11

Connor Speed '18 and Bates are ready for their series against Colby. (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)
Connor Speed ’18 and Bates are ready for their series against Colby. (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Week by week we get closer to that bonanza of baseball they call the NESCAC playoffs. We are now officially less than a month from when the tournament will kick off, but oh boy is there a lot of baseball still to be played, baseball which, at least this weekend, has been postponed another day due to weather.

The series between Colby and Bates will be a big piece in the puzzle for figuring out what two teams will emerge from the East. Trinity will try to force their way into the playoff conversation with a win or two against Tufts. Meanwhile out West, the always charged matchup between Amherst and Williams will take place, most likely with a playoff berth on the line. Still a lot of baseball after this weekend, but the winner of the series will have a serious leg up. Middlebury and Hamilton play in our first chance to see the Continentals in conference play.

Keep an eye on the weather too. The rain and snow that has fallen over most of New England is mostly gone at this point, but it has forced every series to change their schedule to a Saturday doubleheader and Sunday matinee game.

Three to Watch

1. Right Fielder Nate Pajka ’16 (Bates)

Pajka caught the entire league’s attention when he hit four home runs on Bates’ spring trip, and he has continued to show his power with a double in four of his last five games. He has not cooled down much and has a season long OBP of .467 to go along with his exceptional .776 slugging percentage, tied for second in the NESCAC. In 2014, Pajka showed he had power with three homers, but he saw a dip in his batting average from his sophomore year. Now he is hitting for power and average. Despite losing their two best hitters from a year ago, the Bobcat offense has been nearly as good in large part because of the improvement from Pajka.

2. Starting Pitcher Spencer Vogelbach ’18 (Hamilton)

The freshmen from Oaks Christian School in Sothern California, also known as Hollywood High, appears to be on the cusp of being a big part of the rotation for Hamilton. The number that jumps out from his three starts is his 19 strikeouts which looks even better when you realize he has walked only three batters. Vogelbach is 6’3″and comes over the top in his windup making him tough to pick up on at times. Vogelbach could get his first NESCAC start this weekend, but even if he doesn’t, he is one to keep an eye on going forward at Hamilton.

3. Starting Pitcher John Cook ’15 (Amherst)

This series against Williams is a big opportunity for Cook to place himself in the running for NESCAC Pitcher of the Year. At this point the field is still wide open because pitchers have still only had a few starts each. The Jeffs want a big series opening game on Friday. Amherst has an ace, something that the Ephs desperately lack. We have not seen too much of Cook so far, but he has an ERA below 3.00. He is also someone capable of racking up a lot of strikeouts quickly. Even if the rest of the Amherst rotation is not great, a fantastic Cook and that loaded lineup should be more than enough for the Jeffs.


We are not going to predict every series this weekend, but these are our quick thoughts on the Middlebury-Hamilton, Tufts-Trinity, and Williams-Amherst series.

For Middlebury, they are really looking to get the monkey off their back and win one game. It will take somebody on the pitching staff stepping up and pitching deep into a game to make it happen. The offense has scored enough runs to win. Hamilton meanwhile needs contributions up and down the lineup. Kenny Collins ’17 has been a more than capable Robin to Joe Jensen’s Batman. Hamilton knows they need a sweep to keep up with the other teams in the West.

Tufts and Trinity could end up having a very low-scoring series. At least the Bantams are hoping that it goes that way given how their offense has struggled. Jed Robinson ’16 and the rest of the rotation will have to pound the zone and make Tufts beat them by hitting the ball hard instead of getting on through walks. The Bantams are going to have to find some way to score, most likely by taking chances on the base paths and playing small ball. The Jumbos want to score early and allow their pitchers to attack the Trinity hitters.

After last week’s missed opportunity against Wesleyan, the Ephs are hoping their last stand doesn’t turn into a Pickett’s Charge where their pitchers are the Confederates and the Amherst batters are the entrenched Union forces tearing apart everything in front of them. Harry Roberson ’18 has more than lived up to the hype with a batting average ABOVE .500. Outside of Cook, every Amherst pitcher has his flaws which the Williams lineup will have to exploit. The Ephs are also hoping that Luke Rodino ’17 can repeat his solid start against Wesleyan. Getting a quality start from one of their other starters is also a must. Amherst has much more talent, but there is enough on the Williams roster to spring a series upset and take two of three.

Series of the Week: Bates (6-8, 1-1) at Colby (11-4, 2-1)

Saturday 12:00: Connor Colombo ’16 (Bates) vs. Scott Goldberg ’15 (Colby). Saturday 3:00 PM: Will Levangie ’16 (Bates) vs. Greg Ladd ’15 (Colby). Sunday Time TBA: Connor Speed ’18 (Bates) vs. Soren Hanson ’16 (Colby).

This series will have the first NESCAC games of the year played in Maine. Or at least we hope so, as the Bates grounds crew works hard to get the field ready. A lot is at stake in this one up north. A year ago Bates taking two of three from Colby ended up being the deciding factor in the Bobcats making the playoffs.

The big difference between Bates and Colby is in the pitching department. The Mules have a very clear top three while the Bobcats rely on a carousel of arms. Not that Bates is that necessarily worse than Colby (Bates has a lower team ERA), but they have a different approaches given their rosters this year. However, in conference play, having a clear top three is a big advantage, especially when that three is as good as Colby’s is. Soren Hanson ’16 has not allowed an earned run yet in his twelve innings. If Bates can knock out a starter early, then the lack of pitching depth could come back to haunt the Mules.

Pajka and Colby’s Tommy Forese ’16 are somewhat mirror images of each other. Both flashed a little power last year (Pajka more than Forese) and are now enjoying big breakout years where they are tied for the league lead with four homers. The supporting cast for Colby has been a little bit better this year, but their statistics are probably a little bit inflated by their early season schedule. Ryder Arsenault ’17 has the potential to swing a game for Colby with his speed on the bases.

In the end we prefer the certainty in pitching that Colby brings to the table more than the Pu Pu platter of pitchers Bates has. And for the record, I love Pu Pu platters from the local Chinese take-out.

Prediction: Colby wins two of three.

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.

Breakout Players of 2014

One of the great things about college sports is that every season a new crop of players comes to the forefront. Some players can come in and play as freshmen while others have to wait a couple of years before they get their chance at playing time. Below are the players we expect to become big names in the NESCAC

6. Cornerback Stefan Soucy ’17 (Amherst)

Jaymie Spears is one of the top corners in the NESCAC, and Soucy will start the season at the other corner after almost never playing as a freshman. The New Hampshire native is big and rangy for a defensive back which will help him if teams try to beat him deep. The Jeffs are hoping the corner duo performs similar to how the Jets used Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie a couple years ago. Spears will lock down the top receiver and erase one side of the field while Soucy uses his athleticism to make plays because he has help over the top from his safeties. Running on the Amherst front seven will be very difficult, so teams will come after Soucy in the air.

5. Safety/Linebacker Ben Coulibaly ’17 (Bates)

The sophomore is somewhat of a hybrid for the Bobcats playing all over the field. He is capable of rushing the passer from the outside linebacker position or patrolling center field at safety. While he won’t be asked to do all those things every game, his positional flexibility will allow the Bates coaches to game plan specifically for each opponent. Coulibaly could even end up returning kickoffs. Bates has shown they are willing to be inventive in getting their 11 best players on the field as they moved Andrew Kukesh from safety to linebacker despite him never having played their before. Coulibaly might not have one position he plays every down, but he will have a major impact.

4. Running Backs Rico Gonzalez ’16 and  Jeff Hopsicker ’16 (Hamilton)

James Stanell was the man at running back for the Continentals last year, but Gonzalez and Hopsicker are ready to fill that void. Gonzalez has a Darren Sproles build at 5’7″ and will be able to make defenders look silly at times. The switch to a new offensive attack should also help Hopsicker as he makes the move back to offense. Hopsicker is the bigger of the two backs and will be responsible for gaining a lot of the tough yards on the ground. With those two running behind a line that brings back a plethora of players with experience, the Continentals will look to control the clock.

3. Quarterback Gabe Harrington ’17 (Colby)

The Mules are excited about Harrington stepping in at QB especially with all the skill players around him. Receiver Luke Duncklee ’17 said Harrington’s strength is that “he sits back there and fires the ball. He fits perfectly with our scheme.” Duncklee, Nick Joseph ’17, and Ryder Arsenault ’17 are returning starters so the Colby offense will look to have more balance than it did last year. Harrington throws a great deep ball that will allow the Mules to be one of the few NESCAC teams that can stretch a defense vertically. Harrington will not have a lot of time to adjust as he opens tomorrow against a great Trinity defense.

2. Linebacker Branden Morin ’16 (Bowdoin)

Morin replaces departed defensive player of the year Joey Cleary ’14 at the WILL linebacker position in Bowdoin’s 4-3 defense. Do not expect the drop-off in production to be significant. While the Bridgewater-Raynham product has only seen limited snaps so far for the Polar Bears, he will pair with former junior Brendan Lawler ’16 in the middle of the defense. Morin’s strength is in run defense where he should blow up plays in the backfield, and he has worked hard to become a good coverage linebacker as well. Morin also starred at running back in high school. Could he become the NESCAC version to UCLA linebacker/running back Myles Jack?

1. Quarterback Austin Lommen ’16 (Williams)

Lommen is a transfer from Boston College who has won the starting job for the Ephs heading into the season. Transferring from D1 to the NESCAC does not automatically mean success like many might assume, but Lommen appears to be making a big difference already. From the Williams Record, “transfer quarterback Austin Lommen ’16, has emerged as a leader of the team. “He commands respect inside the huddle and off the field and I look forward to seeing him lead our offense,” Cabarle [Captain Tom Caberle ’15] said.” His senior highlight tape shows he has a quick release and has the ability to throw on the run. Most of his passes come in rhythm as the first read in the offense which could lead to some interceptions against teams capable of disguising their coverages. His ability to throw the deep ball will be tantamount for an offense that is loaded with height at the wide receiver and tight end positions.