For most teams, graduating nine seniors would suggest a rebuilding year. But the depth and talent of baseball this season gives the team the potential to fill the large voids left by the ’07s and remain at the top of the NESCAC.
Nonetheless, the 2007 Eph squad left large shoes to fill. Last year’s seniors led Williams to a NESCAC championship and a berth into the NCAA tournament. There, Williams fell to top-seeded Wheaton in the New England Regional, but the team stillfinished the season with an impressive 27-10 record.
Starting catcher Chris Kenney ’07 and pitcher Ryan Fote ’07 were strong presences both offensively and defensively for the Ephs last season. Kenney started a team-high 37 games, batting .343 with 23 RBIs and scored 25 runs for the Ephs. On the mound, Fote finished the season 7-0 with one save and a 2.40 ERA over 56 innings. Closer Sam Tuttle ’07 will also be missed in the bullpen, with six saves and a 1.86 ERA.
With the holes left in the field, batting lineup and the bullpen, the Ephs will look to their young talent to step up this season. “Even with all the seniors last year, some younger guys really stepped up and were able to gain some experience last year,” Dan Benz ’09 said. “I think our team will play with a little more maturity than you might expect given our years.”
Last year’s NESCAC Rookie of the Year, Robin Allemand ’10 will be a force both at shortstop and in the batter’s box. Allemand concluded last year with the third best batting average on the team (.378) with 37 hits and 20 RBIs. Also seeing some playing time last year, Chad Brown ’10, Zack Stone ’09 and Taylor Mikell ’09 have the potential for strong offensive seasons.
This year’s seniors will be key factors to the team’s success. Co-captains James DiCosmo ’08 and Max Pinto ’08 had 39 and 42 hits, respectively, last season. Pinto drove in 22 RBIs last season and had three homeruns and nine triples. Kevin Flynn ’08 and Trey Pendery ’08 will also help lead the Ephs offensively.
Despite losing Tuttle and Fote, the Eph bullpen looks strong and experienced this season. Based on their success last season, Benz, Ben Horwitz ’09, Matt Gustafson ’08 and Paul Burgdorf ’10 will form the core of the Ephs’ pitching.
“Obviously when you lose a [7-0] starting pitcher [Fote] and a lights-out closer [Tuttle], you’ve got some work cut out for you to fill the void,” Benz said. “But we’ve got a great pitching coach in Jarrett Bayless and the pitchers have been working real hard in practice, so I think if we work hard we’ll be able to shoulder the loss of those guys.”
Benz started nine games last season, pitching 53 and 2/3 innings and finishing with a record of 4-1. He led the team in strikeouts with 53, and had a 3.52 ERA. Classmate Horwitz started five games last season, throwing 31 and 1/3 innings and finishing 3-0.
Gustafson, another strong starter for Williams, proved himself last year starting seven games and pitching 36 and 2/3 innings. Gustafson had a 3.44 ERA and struck out 26 batters.
Burgdorf will possibly start this season, but he was a crucial relief pitcher and closer last year, notching two saves.
Baseball will begin its season with a busy spring break trip to Arizona where the team will play 16 games between March 17 and the 29th. With the offense and defense stepping up, Head Coach Bill Barrale has a young but promising team in his second year at the helm of the program.
“Our goals this year are similar [to last season’s],” DiCosmo said of the upcoming season. “The NESCAC is a very good conference this season, so repeating as champs is our main goal. If we play the way we can we should be very successful again.”