Baseball Primed for Breakout Season, Power Outburst
The baseball team looks primed for a strong season as they hope to carry their season-ending momentum from last year over to the current campaign. The Jeffs, who compiled a 21-11 record last year, ended the season on a 14-4 tear that included wins in 11 of their final 12 games.
The Jeffs return most of last year’s main contributors, having lost only one starter to graduation. The team will look to build upon their positive foundation from last spring, when they set a school record with a cumulative .349 batting average, led by Bob Cook ’13. Cook hit at a .456 clip and drove in 26 runs.
Eight players hit above .330 last year, including Cook, and all but one are back in the lineup this season. The Jeffs also boasted solid run production, coupled with strong power output. Kevin Heller ’12 paced the team with seven home runs and 32 runs batted in, and the team as a whole scored the second-most runs in program history with 280. The Jeffs were at the top of the NESCAC in terms of performance at the plate, finishing in the top two in triples, batting average, slugging percentage, runs per game and homers per game.
Coach Brian Hamm, in his second year leading the program, has clearly outlined areas for improvement for his team. He would like to see the pitching staff step up on a consistent basis, as the Jeffs clearly have the potential to be a top-notch squad if that happens. Co-captain Pat Harris ’11, an end-game reliever who compiled four saves and a 2.53 earned run average last year, agreed with his coach’s assessment, and added that “the expectations for the season are extremely high, but our [level of] work ethic has been even higher.”
If the Jeffs can use that offseason work to replicate hot stretches like the one they enjoyed in April last season, the season outlook looks good. In a six-game stretch, the pitchers gave up no more than four runs in any single game en route to compiling a 2.77 ERA. This contrasted with the team ERA for the season as a whole, a mediocre 5.44. However, the starting pitchers (Ryan Healy ’11, Dylan Joyce ’12 and Max McKenna ’11) posted a record of 10 wins compared to only five losses over the course of the season.
In addition, Hamm stressed the importance of defense in the offseason. The Jeffs need to improve their fielding percentage of .940, which was only good enough for ninth place in the NESCAC.
These goals should be aided by the influx of depth the team has received from newcomers, as well as the continued development of the veterans on the squad. Co-captains Harris and Brian Merrigan ’11 lead a group with 11 freshmen, including infielders Ryan D’Souza ’14 and Taiki Kasuga ’14. A large group of new pitchers, including Cam Windham ’14, Dylan Driscoll ’14, Robert Cahill ’14, Eric Kotin ’14 and JJ Hoffstein ’14 will bolster the rotation as well. These players have coalesced into the existing unit seamlessly. As Harris says, “A big strength of ours is team camaraderie. All the guys on the team get along well on and off the field. Being close with one another and being able to trust each player on the team plays a crucial role in the season.”
While the Jeffs look like a strong team, they will face many challenges amidst a tough schedule. The NESCAC East Division has produced the conference winner for the last three years, a trend that the Jeffs hopes to tip in favor of the West. If the Jeffs can keep a consistently high level of production at the plate, the mound and in the field, they could challenge for their first postseason berth since 2008 and their first NESCAC title since 2005.