By Andrew Chirico
Despite the occasional Maryland snow showers, Athey Park is ready for baseball fans when the Shoremen open the 2017 this Saturday, Feb. 25.
With the preseason portion of the season coming to a close, third-year head coach Matt Reynolds is satisfied with the progress he has seen.
“Our pitching has looked strong early. For the most part, we are throwing strikes and being efficient. We have also retooled our pitchers training program, which I think is helping a lot of our guys. Both positionally and on the mound we have seen a great dedication to the strength and conditioning program and to getting the off season work in that our players need to be able to hit the ground running so far this spring,” Reynolds said. “Our position players have looked good as well. The hitters are a bit behind right now but I think that is a natural combination of our pitcher’s off-season work and seeing live arms for the first time in a while. It always takes the hitters a little time to get up to speed.”
The Shoremen roster is stacked with a heap of experience, with eight of the top nine leading hitters returning this season. Players including seniors Evan Hirschbaum, Charlie Meder, and junior Wes Roberston are at the top of that list. Robertson feels that he has seen a huge growth in his skill-set from his freshman season to now.
“From freshman year to now I’d like to think that I’ve made some strides as a player both physically and mentally. Having the right people here at Washington College has definitely made it possible for our entire team to progress,’ he said. “Working with coach Reynolds and coach Scott Renauro for the last two and a half years, along with the new coaches this year has had a great impact on all of our progressions as players and people. In addition to our baseball coaches, having coach Jonnie Jenkins and coach Jake Alvarez in the weight room has been great for the team.”
Meder emerges as one of the captains along with senior pitcher Billy Griffin. In his senior season, Meder knows what it means to take on a leadership role.
“For me, being a captain is all about leading by example,” he said. “My goal is to set the standard for the younger guys on the team through my work ethic, whether it be on the field, in the weight room, or even in the classroom.”
The infield will include returning starters in every position, excluding third base. In the outfield, the team will have two returning starters from last season. With just two spots to fill in the field, Reynolds feels the experience is going to pay off.
“We are definitely experienced in several positions this year. It really helps us get through the nitty gritty parts of the game in practice much more quickly (signs, bunt defenses, first and third, plays, etc.),” he said. “The experience can also allow for the proper development of our younger players. While I have no problem playing freshmen, sometimes it is beneficial not to thrust them into action right away.”
When asked whether or not he felt it was safe to say the pitching staff had a lot of depth, Reynolds said, “It would. This has a chance to be a unique staff that has fewer members (15) than in previous years, but have more innings spread out than before. We expect all 15 guys to be in position to go out there and contribute when called upon. This makes for a very competitive atmosphere when it comes to who logs innings and when. I think it will help us.”
Of those 15 pitchers, there will be a lot of familiar faces on the mound this season, including Griffin, and juniors Brian Kasey, P.J. Mikulus, and Nick Popolizio. Coming out of the bullpen, fans can expect to see a lot of action from junior Mike Bartels and sophomore Nick Roberti. Bartels threw for 22 innings while the young gun Roberti threw for 16.2 innings. There is no uncertainty that Griffin will lead the entire pitching staff this season and continue to develop his arsenal of pitches.
“I have always had good off-speed pitches, but the added velocity on my fastball and recent improvements on my change-up have made a tremendous impact on my capabilities as a pitcher,” Griffin said. “These developments have been critical to my success this past spring and summer in the NYCBL.”
He has also embraced his leadership responsibilities beyond just baseball.
“As a leader, this year I have been trying to make myself a role model to the younger guys for what it means to be a college baseball player on and off the field. I want this to be a team that prides itself on its discipline in the classroom, on the field, and in the community,” he said. “I have been trying to incorporate things I have learned over my four years to the pitching staff, and lead these guys to be the one of the best staffs in the conference that we have proven to be the past two seasons.”
The Shoremen will open their season this Saturday, Feb. 25 with a home double header versus Wiedner College. The first pitch is slated for 1 p.m. and will be stream on GooseNationTV.com. Reynolds has realistic goals looking back to the team’s past.
“To win the Centennial Conference Championship,” Reynolds said. “After missing the conference tournament two years in a row by (literally) the slimmest of margins, I think this group is poised to not only get into the playoffs but to make a real run at the championship.”