February 6, 2013

2013 W&L Baseball Season Preview

The Washington and Lee baseball team enters the 2013 season with the goal of getting back into the ODAC Tournament, after missing it by one game last year.

"Obviously, the team was disappointed we didn't make it," Head Coach Jeff Stickley said. "But, the set back pushed them to work hard. The attitude of every player is really good and we keep getting better every day."

The Blue and White was recently picked seventh in the ODAC Coaches' Preseason Poll. The Generals finished seventh last season, and the addition of Shenandoah to the conference will make the league that much tougher. W&L features nine seniors and six new players, with 15 sophomores and juniors returning.

The Generals are led by their two captains in seniors Jonathan Stutts and Will Salley. Stutts, the team's starting shortstop, was a First Team All-ODAC selection last year, started all 34 games and batted .402 with 11 doubles, three triples and five home runs, to go along with 25 runs batted in and 26 runs scored. His .500 on-base percentage led the conference, while his .644 slugging percentage ranked fourth in the league. Stutts was also selected to the Second Team ABCA/Rawlings All-South Region team and the D3Baseball.com All-South Region third team.

"He is one of the best players in the conference," Stickley remarked. "We will count on him to play like he is capable of, and be a leader of the team."

 Salley, a 2011 First Team All-ODAC designated hitter, started all 34 games last season, mostly playing right field. He finished second on the team in batting average (.320), RBIs (21), on-base percentage (.435), slugging percentage (.451) and home runs (2). Salley also led the team in walks (24).

"He is a great player and hitter," Stickley noted. "He will be the one staple in the outfield, while we try to find the best player at the other two spots. In center, we are looking at two or three guys to fill the hole left from the graduation of Mike Decembrino."

The trio of senior Joe Scalzo, sophomore Philip Anderson and junior Keegan Dolan will compete for time in the outfield. Scalzo hit .244 in 16 games last season. Anderson appeared in nine contests, but only had three at-bats. Dolan started 16 games in 2012 with a .235 average.

Sophomore Drew Weprinsky played in three games last year, but will compete for the starting spot in left.

Weprinsky has a really nice swing," Stickley said. "He only had three at-bats last season, but came on strong during the offseason."

Behind the plate, W&L returns seniors Alex Mait and Luke Deary. Mait started 25 games, hitting .309 with 16 RBIs. Deary appeared in 21 contests with a .212 average.

"They are both solid catchers who split time last season," Stickley explained. "They have improved defensively, and Alex really improved his bat. Obviously, you need two catchers when you play the number of games we do in a short amount of time."

For the corner infield spots, senior Alex Maragos returns at first base and senior Chris Nault at third. Maragos hit .276 with eight doubles, and Nault batted .247 in 73 at-bats.

"Maragos has been a starter for a couple years for us and is strong defensively." Stickley said. "I expect him to have a solid year hitting with improvement upon last season. Nault was our starter most of the time last year at third, and will hopefully hold down the spot this season."

At second base, sophomores Nick Biumi and Taylor Rowe will compete for the starting nod. Rowe hit .385 in just 13 at-bats, while Biumi played in 23 games with a .213 average.

"Biumi played some third last year, but will move to second," Stickley said. "Rowe will battle him for playing time, while also serving as our backup shortstop."

The pitching staff will see a major overhaul from 2012, as the Generals lost five pitchers to graduation who combined for 19 starts.

"We lost a lot of quality innings in Pat Smith and Jody Davis," Stickley noted. "We feel like our top two or three are really good in senior Ian Shaw and junior Nate Plein. They are both dynamic pitchers, and will certainly have to carry the load."

Shaw appeared in 11 games last season with 10 starts. He went 5-4 with a 3.69 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 61.0 innings. Plein came out of the bullpen most of last year with 10 games played and two starts. He was 3-0 with 16 strikeouts and a 1.61 ERA in 28.0 innings.

The next returner with the most experience as a starter is sophomore Matt Hedberg. He appeared in eight games with three starts. He finished the year 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA and eight strikeouts in 21.0 innings.

"Hedberg pitched well in his first season, and we are looking for him to continue to improve," Stickley remarked. "After him, senior Eric Wisotsky and junior Jake Rudolph pitched a lot last year and will have to step up this season."

The Generals will also look to junior Andrew Kindelin and sophomores Cory Smith and Andrew Lamb. The three combined for six appearances, 6.1 innings pitched, seven strikeouts and nine earned runs.

"We have 11 pitchers this year, and they can all compete at this level," Stickley said. "They just don't all have the experience yet. The key to this whole deal is how fast these guys can fill the holes we have in the staff."

With the Generals looking to get back to the ODAC tournament this year, they have built a tough schedule that features two non-conference opponents (Emory and Alvernia) that made the NCAA Regionals last season.

"We are just ready to play and we hope the weather holds," Stickley noted. "We'll face strong regional teams like Emory, Piedmont and Alvernia, which will be a test for us. But the reason our guys came here was to play good teams." 

The Generals begin play on Saturday at home against Rochester (Mich.) for a doubleheader beginning at 12:00 pm.