Baseball 2013 Season Outlook
Expectations are sky high for a team that has won back-to-back Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference Tournament Championships, earning bids into the previous two NCAA Division II East Region Tournaments.
Heading into his ninth season at the helm of the Wildcats, head coach Brian August expects nothing less than another trip to the East Regional again in 2013.
“Our goal every year is to win the conference tournament and make a splash in the regional,” August said of his teams’ goals. “It’s the same this year but it starts with defending the CACC Championship.”
August returns all five assistants to his coaching staff, anchored by 12th year assistant Rich Groff. Jim Fallers returns for his seventh consecutive and ninth year overall on the bench, while Doug Nowell begins his fourth season under August. Anthony Cimabue and Billy Crowe also return for their second year with the program.
After losing a senior laden batting core that was brought up through the program since 2009, August will rely heavily on its experienced pitching staff in 2013. The Wildcats return three top starters while adding a junior college transfer to round out the rotation. Junior Jamie Treml headlines the staff, followed by senior Dave Hatt, sophomore Ray Gambone , and junior transfer Jason Seitler. Treml is the lone All-CACC returner to the squad, earning Second Team a season ago. He was also picked to the Second Team ABCA All-East Region after a strong finish in 2012 that helped him earn NCAA Division II East Region All-Tournament Team and CACC Tournament MVP honors.
What might have been the crutch of the 2012 squad looks to be the strength of this year’s team, as the bullpen could be the deepest it’s been since August has taken over the program. Although the toughest position the team has to replace was the reliable arm of All-American Jordan Oncay in the closer position, junior setup man Nick Marics looks to anchor the back of the pen in 2013. Once the starter comes out of the game, August will look to five other Wildcats in order to get to Marics in the ninth. Junior Tim Racek, redshirt freshman Armando Estrada, freshman Jarrett Shaffer, and sophomores Tyler Fries and Rob Gore will be called upon to control the middle innings of the contest.
Making it one of the deepest bullpens August has had at Wilmington are the five other relievers that are set to also see action and put out fires when necessary. Frank Samluk will come from his normal position from the right side of the infield to pitch when needed. Kyle Lindstrom will also play multiple roles on the team, heading to the mound when called upon as well. Peter Monahan, James Fallers, and Justin Risko will provide August with the depth the team needs during its 50 game schedule.
“Marics did a great job in the eighth inning last year and jumps to the closer role this year,” August said. “Losing an All-American closer might be the toughest spot to replace on the field, but our depth is key. It’s a lot deeper than last year.”
One of the biggest differences from last year’s team will be the overall team speed in the lineup. An already solid defensive group, the speed and the pitching will be keys to this year’s success.
The outfield will be setup with speed across the board, as senior Jordan Johnson will roam in centerfield. Speedy redshirt sophomore Jon Castro will take over in right field while senior lefty Brandon Payne will become the full-time starter in left. Payne returns as the team’s stolen base leader, going 8-for-13 last year.
A bulk of the infield remains intact as well, secured by sure handed senior shortstop Jonathan Rodriguez. Sophomore Brendan Fallers will look to split time with Samluk at second base, with Samluk also playing a majority of the time at first base. Newcomer and NJCAA Second-Team All-American Josh Hampton will hope to carry the brunt of the offense, filling in for the vacancy at third base. Also new to the program is sophomore Sam Goines who picks up a bat once again after heading to the University of Delaware to initially play football. Goines will head the designated hitter rotation. Junior Joe Marciano will be the first off the bench to fill in at first base, as well as true freshman JR Gregory. Lindstrom will fill the pinch hitting role, getting a chance as the team’s designated hitter in ample opportunities as well.
“If we do have a concern this year, it’s that our hitters are unproven,” August said of his offense. “We lost a lot of talent on the offensive side last year, but we also return and brought in a lot of talented hitters, they just have to prove themselves at this level.”
Redshirt sophomore Matt Lopes will head a group of catchers that will not only be counted on at the plate, but also handle the pitching staff behind the dish. Lopes took over the catching duties towards the end of last season, catching in the CACC Tournament and the NCAA Regionals, propelling him into the starting role this season. Senior Joe El-Bisi becomes the slotted backup while redshirt freshmen Julius Ryland, and Ryan Richards will also battle for time when Lopes’ needs a break. True freshman Mike Jerminski will throw another wrench into the operation when he is fully healthy, as he is coming off a serious leg injury from the fall, and won’t be able to go right away at the beginning of the season.
In addition to its lofty team goals, the Wildcats also have some exterior pressure on them coming into this year. The team was unanimously picked to three-peat in the CACC Preseason Coaches’ Poll as well as picked fourth in the NCBWA Preseason East Region Poll before even stepping foot on a diamond.
August wrapped up his thoughts on his 2013 squad, “we lost some big name guys off last year’s team but I’ve always thought it’s not who you bring in year-to-year that changes your team. It’s how good your returners get in the offseason that makes a difference.”