Baseball Season Preview

Baseball Season Preview

CHESTERTOWN, Md. – It is the dawning of a new era of Shoremen Baseball under the guidance of first year head coach Cory Beddick.  Beddick arrives in Chestertown after leading fellow Maryland college, Hood, for the first three seasons of its existence, winning 50 games and earning the 2016 MAC Commonwealth Conference Coach of the Year.

After missing the conference tournament by one game in 2015 and 2016, the Shoremen took a step back in 2017, finishing 15-23 overall and 6-12 in Centennial play.  This season, Washington looks to rebound from last year's tough campaign, tally its third winning season in the last four years and reach the Centennial Conference Tournament for the first time in six years.

The Shoremen skipper is optimistic about the team's outlook for a successful bounce back season in 2018.  "We have an exciting mix of veteran upperclassmen that have a proven track record of success, and a group of talented underclassmen that are looking to establish themselves and help our program take that next step forward," states Beddick.

For Washington to get where it wants to be, the team will need to improve both on the mound and at the plate as they finished in the bottom half on both sides last season in the Centennial.

After two very strong seasons on the mound in 2015 and 2016, the Shoremen pitching staff struggled in 2017 and will look to rebound in 2018.  In 2016, the Shoremen had an overall team ERA of 3.57 and in conference play had a 3.50 ERA.  In 2017 those numbers jumped to 5.18 and 6.56 respectively.  The team will also look to improve on batting average against as the team allowed a .307 average overall and .341 in conference games.  The bullpen scuffled to an ERA of 6.30, while the starters had an ERA of 4.54.

The Shoremen hurlers did lead the conference in strikeouts per nine innings in overall (7.97) and conference play (8.07) and finished second in the Centennial in total strikeouts (280) and strikeouts in Centennial action (139). 

Beddick says the pitching staff is aware of the need for improvement in 2018.  "Our pitching staff is up to the challenge.  Guys understand that if we pitch well, then our team will be in position to win a lot of ballgames."

Pitching wise, Beddick, sees two spots secured for the 2018 season with six guys competing for the final two spots in the starting rotation. 

The two starters Beddick projects to be the top two starters are seniors Brian Kasey (Wilmington, Del./Alexis I. du Pont) and P.J. Mikulus (Plainview, N.Y./Chaminade).  Mikulus will look to bounce back from a tough junior season as he went 1-3 with a 5.23 ERA in 43 innings of work and regain his 2016 form when he went 4-1 with a team-best 2.20 ERA in 45 innings.  Kasey, after tossing a team-high 54 innings as a sophomore, was limited to four innings due to injury as a junior.  Beddick says that "PJ and Brian are two guys we feel can give us a chance to win each time they get the ball.  We also look for them to provide veteran leadership for the younger arms on the staff."

The other pitchers competing for the other two spots are juniors Billy Benson (Bel Air, Md./Patterson Mill) and Nick Roberti (New Fairfield, Conn./New Fairfield) and freshmen Nick Brauer (Royersford, Pa./Spring-Ford), Ryan Mostoller (Cheshire, Conn./Cheshire), Ethan Osgood (Glen Gardner, N.J./Voorhees) and Mike Smith (Springfield, Pa./Springfield).  Benson pitched in eight games, starting six times to the tune of a 2-2 record with a 6.53 ERA in 30.1 innings pitched, while Roberti had a 5.20 ERA in 10 games, four of which were starts.  He had a 1-3 record with two saves as he was one of 11 pitchers in the conference to tally multiple saves.  Beddick mentions "if our freshmen pitchers can continue to develop, we feel as though there are a couple of potential difference makers in that group."

In the bullpen, the Shoremen seek to improve from their 6.30 ERA a season ago.  Expected to close for the team is senior Sean Weiss (Cheltenham, Pa./Germantown Academy), who looks to fill the void left by Wes Robertson who signed with the Texas Rangers last summer.  Weiss had a team-best 14 appearances, tying for seventh in the Centennial, as he went 2-0 with a 4.87 ERA in 20.1 innings with one save.  Beddick projects his setup men to Weiss as seniors Mike Bartels (Middletown, N.J./Middletown North) and Nick Popolizio (Collegeville, Pa./Germantown Academy) as both look to regain their 2016 form after both had ERAs of over 10 last spring.  In late 2016, Bartels allowed just three runs in his last 15.1 innings pitched, while Popolizio had a 1.97 ERA two years ago.

Beddick sees the middle relief consisting of juniors Jay Felts (Glen Arm, Md./McDonogh), Dom Giandonato (Mullica Hill, N.J./Haddon Heights) and Connor Morgan (Havertown, Pa./Haverford), sophomore Matt Furlong (Howell, N.J./Howell) and freshmen Alex Bendzlowicz (Warrington, Pa./Central Bucks South) and Chris Lollo (Holbrook, N.Y./Sachem North).  Furlong appeared in 11 games out of the bullpen last year going 0-3 in 20 innings with a 5.40 ERA.  Giandonato and Morgan each got into four games in relief with ERAs of 7.71 and 4.50 respectively.

The offense took a step back last season as the batting average went down 24 points from .286 to .262, which was last in the conference.  The Shoremen scored the second fewest runs 188, an average of 4.95 runs per game, down from 6.41 in 2016.  In Centennial play, Washington hit just .247, ranking last, and scored the fewest runs in conference play with just 71.  For the Shoremen to reach the conference tournament, Beddick knows these numbers need to improve.  "Look, I know last year's offensive numbers were not good, but this lineup is too talented not to bounce back.  We believe in this group.  This is not a .262 hitting team and the guys are out to prove that," Beddick exclaimed. 

Behind the plate, Beddick is expecting senior Gavin O'Donnell (Lancaster, Pa./Manheim Township) and sophomore Ryan Zwier (Newark, Del./Christ School (N.C.) to split time.  O'Donnell, the team's Most Improved Player from last season hit .262 with eight RBI and 17 walks as he placed third on the team in on-base percentage at .412.  Zwier had a solid rookie season for the Shoremen as he hit .315 with three home runs to finish second on the team and drove in 11 runs in just 73 at bats.  His .315 average ties him for tops of all returners.  Beddick expects Zwier to be a force in the middle of the Shoremen lineup and he will likely see time as the team's designated hitter when he is not behind the dish.  Also in the mix at catcher are freshmen Evan Dumont (Glen Mills, Pa./Bayard Rustin) and Dan Visnov (Lansdale, Pa./Methacton)

First base has a returning starter in senior Evan Hirschbaum (North Massapequa, N.Y./Plainedge) as he will look to regain his 2016 form as he hit just .273 last season after hitting .342 two years ago.  Hirschbaum, who is projected to hit in the middle of the order this spring, hit two home runs and drove in 17 in 2017.  In the field, he had 206 putouts which was good for ninth in the conference.  Others expected to see time at first base are Felts and sophomore Max Hammond (Annapolis, Md./St. Mary's).  Hammond hit .321 with a home run and five RBI in just 28 at bats last season, 19 games, while Felts hit .229 with a home run and five RBI last year in 16 games and 35 at bats. 

Across the infield from first is expected to be patrolled by junior Aaron Barclay (Crofton, Md./Archbishop Spalding), a second team all-conference selection as a freshman in 2016.  Barclay, who is also a member of the men's soccer team at WC, will seek return to his 2016 form, when he tied for the team lead in home runs with five as he hit .327 with 26 RBI, as he hit just .228 with 17 RBI in 2017.  Beddick expects him to hit in either the three or four slot in the lineup.  He was fourth on the team in batting and third in RBI a season ago.  "Barclay is special," says the Shoremen skipper and he goes on to state that he expects the talented, two-sport athlete to put up numbers similar to that of his freshman campaign."

Also capable of playing third are Bendzlowicz and freshman Jack Kingman (Concord, Mass./Cheshire Academy (Conn.).

The middle infield has both incumbents back in the fold for 2018 in junior Luke D'Ostilio (Hamden, Conn./Hamden) at second base and senior Joe Lozupone (Olney, Md./Good Counsel) at shortstop for the fourth straight year.  D'Ostilio hit .290 last season, an improvement of 32 points from his freshman year, with a home run and 16 RBI as he played in all in 38 games.  He was tied for fourth in the Centennial and led the Shoremen in walks with 23.  The junior committed just seven errors in 161 total chances for a .957 fielding percentage.  Lozupone hit .233 in 36 games last year with 10 RBI and 15 walks.  His 15 base on balls and four stolen bases were second on the team in 2017.  Beddick also anticipates freshmen CJ Gillmer (Doylestown, Pa./Central Bucks East) to push for significant time in the middle infield.  Beddick mentioned that the tam has a good problem in the middle infield with "two exceptional shortstops that are capable of being starters at the college level."

Also in the mix in the middle infield are freshmen Aaron Deutsch (Haverford, Pa./Harriton)

Beddick expects the corner outfield positions to be patrolled by seniors Matt Tancredi (Wall, N.J./Wall) and Ryan Donnelly (Charlotte, N.C./Brother Rice [Mich.]).  Tancredi will look to fill the void left by Charlie Meder, who led the team in four different offensive categories last year.  Tancredi hit .315 to tie for the team lead of all returners with Zwier as he went deep three times and drove in 11, while playing in 33 games.  His nine doubles are tops amongst returners and he also worked out 14 walks.  Donnelly appeared in 19 contests last spring.  Beddick indicated that he believes the two seniors are "in line for big offensive seasons." 

The first-year mentor sees a four way competition for the starting centerfield which consists of junior TC Conrad (Silver Spring, Md./Paint Branch), sophomores Tommy Buckman (McLean, Va./McLean) and Chris Kramedas (Hockessin, Del./Conrad Schools of Science) and Smith.  Conrad provides lots of speed and coverage in the center as he played in 25 games in 2017, while Kramedas got into 28 contests last spring.  Both are excellent defensive outfielders that can also show their speed on the base paths.  Kramedas stole four bases, while Conrad swiped three.  Buckman joins the Shoremen after spending his freshmen year at SUNY Maritime in the Bronx where he played in 24 games, helping the team win the Skyline Conference and reach the NCAA Tournament.  "We feel very good about the depth in our outfield," states Beddick.  He goes on to say, "we anticipate all four of these guys having significant roles on our team this spring and in the years to come."

Beddick is hoping for sophomore Joe Otto (Middletown, Del./Appoquinimink) to be in play for one of the outfield positions by conference play as he is returning from injury.  Otto hit .300 in 40 at bats with a home run and seven RBI in 15 contests.

Rounding out the outfield are seniors Chris Bauers (Phoenixville, Pa./Devon Prep) and freshman David Hudak (Phoenix, Md./St. Paul's School).

At designated hitter, Beddick expects Donnelly and Zwier to get the majority of the action this season, but says that, "others can hit their way into this spot as well."

In the field last season, the Shoremen finished seventh with a .953 fielding percentage as they committed 65 errors.

Serving as captains for the team are D'Ostilio, Lozupone, Mikulus, Popolizio and Tancredi.

Beddick is no stranger to the Centennial Conference as he played his baseball for conference rival Gettysburg (2007-10) and served as an assistant coach for the Bullets in 2011 before moving on to Penn State-Behrend where he served as an assistant for two years before moving onto Hood to start its program.

Beddick will be joined on his coaching staff by second year assistant Cooper Belyea and first year assistants Bennett Schiltz, who will be serving as the pitching coach, Michael Festa and Hal McBee.  Schiltz, a 2015 Frostburg State graduate, was an All-American in 2015 for the Bobcats and spent the following two years as an assistant coach for his alma mater.  McBee is a 1992 Washington College graduate who played two years for the Shoremen Nine and was named to the College's Athletic Hall of Fame in 2015.  Festa, a 2014 WC graduate, played two years of baseball for Washington (2012-13) before becoming a student assistant coach for the softball team in 2014.

On Washington's schedule are two teams ranked in the Preseason Top 25: #8 Johns Hopkins and #18 Salisbury.  Washington will play at Salisbury on March 5 and host Salisbury on March 22 and will play reigning Centennial Conference champion Johns Hopkins on the road on April 24 and at home on April 27. 

Washington will play three teams who reached the NCAA Tournament last spring: Earlham, Johns Hopkins and Salisbury.

The Shoremen are slated to open their 2018 season on February 24 at home in a doubleheader against Lancaster Bible at 12:00 p.m.  WC will open Centennial play on March 31 when they host to Franklin & Marshall for a doubleheader.  In conference, the Shoremen will have home-and-homes with Swarthmore, Haverford, McDaniel and reigning conference champion Johns Hopkins.  In addition to F&M, WC will entertain Gettysburg for a CC doubleheader, while visiting Dickinson, Muhlenberg and Ursinus in conference twinbills.  Out of conference, the Shoremen will host Catholic (February 28), Roger Williams (March 3 doubleheader), Wesley (March 8) and Cairn (March 26) in addition to Salisbury and Lancaster Bible and will travel to Catholic (March 21), Gallaudet (March 24) and Wesley (March 27) along with Salisbury.  During Spring Break the Shoremen will be in Fort Pierce, Florida and are set to play Western Connecticut (March 11 doubleheader), Marywood (March 12 doubleheader), Earlham (March 13), Cairn (March 15), Bethany (March 16 doubleheader) and Kenyon (March 17 doubleheader).  Washington will have 16 home games, 14 road contests and 10 games in Florida.