Spartans return offense and gain depth
UAA Baseball Championship Tournament: March 9-14 Sanford, Florida
Issue date: 3/5/10 Section: Sports
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The Spartans have already played four games so far, going 2-2 over Feb 20-21 in a trip to Virginia and North Carolina. Both sides of the team played well: The offense scored at least nine runs in three of the four games, and the pitching staff held the formidable offense of Guilford College, who went 3-1 against the Spartans last season, to 12 runs in two games.
The offense returns all nine starters and adds some capable freshmen to the mix. The top returning hitters are first baseman Chad Mullins (.388 batting average, .436 on-base percentage, .552 slugging percentage), designated hitter Cory Pecoraro (.356/.403/.486), and outfielder Phil Keefe (.373/.398/.494).
Two freshmen contributed well in the first four games. Starting shortstop Matt Keen hit .500 with two doubles, a triple, and a home run. Outfielder Brett Ossola started two games and hit three doubles in five at-bats.
"Hitting looks to be our strength - we hit real well in [North Carolina], and although we will face some better pitching, I don't see any team shutting us down for nine innings," said Mullins.
"The biggest improvement this offseason occurred in the weight room," said Keefe. "Monday through Friday, we were in at 7 a.m. during the fall and the whole team got much stronger."
"We have a lot more depth this year, so we can take it just beyond our starting nine guys," said coach Matt Englander. "We've got other guys that can come in and contribute, give some guys a night off."
The pitching rotation will mainly consist of sophomores Zach Fry, A.J. Boshinski, and Taylor Lorenz, and freshman Jarrett Gish.
Fry had the best control among last year's starters, with only 2.5 walks per game. Boshinski led the staff with 7.71 strikeouts per game. Gish had the best pitching performance of the first four games, only giving up one earned run in five innings. Lorenz joins the rotation this year after spending last season in the bullpen.
"[Lorenz] is a guy who pitched primarily out of the bullpen last year. He worked through a lot of mechanical issues. he's really worked hard," said Englander.
"Our pitchers aren't huge strikeout guys, but they're not going to walk a lot of people. We're going to keep the ball down, and get a lot of ground balls, which feeds into our defense." said Englander.
"There has been a huge focus on strength training, flexibility, and throwing [and] running programs for the pitchers," said Lorenz.
One concern as they travel to Georgia and Florida this weekend will be sophomore infielder Jamal Abed's injury status. He hurt his shoulder during the first game of the season and hasn't played since.
"He's a big part of what we do, whether offensively, defensively, or on the bases. We're pretty optimistic that he's going to be all right," said Englander.
"The team looks more experienced this season. We're much more confident than past years, and should be able to make some noise in the UAA tournament and the season after," said Keefe.
"In terms of other teams, we know what to expect. They will be well-prepared and ready to beat us," said Pecoraro. "We need to be the better team in all facets of the game. If we do so, we will be fine."