Baseball prepares for historic season

espite losing two First Team All-NESCAC players to graduation last year, baseball returns this season with plenty of experience both on the mound and in the batter’s box. With a challenging schedule and a historic game in the mix, Williams looks to improve upon last season’s accomplishments and take home a conference title.

In 2008 Williams ended the season with a 24-12 record, going 9-3 in the NESCAC. The Ephs hit unfortunate luck in the postseason, falling out of the NESCAC tournament with one-run losses to Tufts and Amherst. Despite a few line-up changes this season, Head Coach Bill Barrale’s team looks ready to make a run for the NESCAC title.

Much of the strength for the Ephs this year will come from the bullpen, as Williams returns all but one starting pitcher from last season. Named First Team All-NESCAC last season, Dan Benz ’09 looks to have another standout year in 2009. Benz led the team in innings pitched (59.0), batters struck out (56) and wins (6) last season. Co-captain Ben Horwitz ’09 (eight games started and a 3.83 ERA) and Paul Burgdorf ’10 (five games started and a 3.47 ERA) also bring experience to the starting rotation. Zach Stone ’09 (2.50 ERA), Tommy Hester ’11(1.74 ERA) and Tommy Coleman ’10 (3.33 ERA) add even more depth to the bullpen. “Our two captains Dan Benz and Ben Horwitz are both excellent leaders and pitchers,” Robin Allemand ’10 said. “There is no doubt the entire team looks to them for leadership both on and off the field.  That being said, if they have trouble on the mound, we’ll be there to pick them up.”

This season’s batting order will likely be very different than the lineup of the 2008 season. With leadoff hitter James DiCosmo ’08 and power hitter Max Pinto ’08 gone, the Ephs will look to Allemand, Taylor Mikell ’09 and Al Mathews ’10 for offensive power. Last season in the cleanup position Allemand batted .354 with two home runs and a team-high seven triples. In 126 at bats in 2008, Mikell batted .310 and scored 29 runs. Mathews hit .384 last season with a .476 on base percentage and 30 RBIs. Chad Brown ’10 will also help offensively this season. “As much as we miss our graduated seniors, they’ve moved on and so should we,” Allemand said. “We have had a talented freshman class join us this year, so we are excited to start playing and show teams what we can do.”

The Ephs will also look to its new players to fill out the field and the rest of the lineup. Williams has 10 talented first-years who will all be looking for time on the field.

The Ephs begin their season with a two-week, 14-game trip to Arizona on March 22. Williams will play Middlebury three times in Phoenix, and will play other non-conference teams around the state. After returning from spring break, baseball will face Div. I Fordham, who are likely to be fierce competition for the Ephs. Williams will then play NESCAC and local teams. It will conclude its regular season with a historic game against archrival Amherst on May 3; the teams will commemorate the 150th year of collegiate baseball with a historic game at Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, the place where these two teams marked the first college baseball game in the U.S. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.

With a challenging and exciting schedule ahead of them, the Ephs look forward to a competitive season.