Baseball 2009 Season Outlook

Baseball 2009 Season Outlook

WILLIAMSTOWN, MA — Bill Barrale is having trouble sleeping at night — but that’s a good thing.

The head coach of the Williams College baseball team, Barrale has been spending his late night hours going over line-up combinations, thinking about his starting rotation, and looking forward to his Ephs hitting the field Sunday in its season opener out west.

Barrale’s 2009 roster has 29 players, 17 of whom saw action for Williams last year, when the Ephs’ went 24-12 and won the NESCAC’s West Division for the second consecutive season. Couple them with 10 first-years full of talent and you can see why Barrale’s mind is whirring.

“We’re athletic, that’s what jumps out at me,” Barrale said. “That’s the word we’ve been using around here. We’re going to have a lot of different line-ups, a lot of different guys will see action, but we’re still counting on our core philosophy: Make the routine play.”

There will be nothing routine about the 2009 season for Williams, as it celebrates its 150th season of baseball — the oldest collegiate baseball program in America — with high-profile games at Div. I Fordham (April 7) and versus archrival Amherst (May 3) at Wahconah Park in Pittsfield. That game will be broadcast live by ESPNU.

“I told the guys, it’s all about timing,” Barrale said. “We’re fortunate to be here during the 150th year of baseball at Williams, it’s an honor to be involved. But we’re going to treat those games as one of 34.”

Helping guide the Ephs will be a core group of six seniors, led by senior co-captains Ben Horwitz and Dan Benz, both left-handed starters who will be counted on for big things during the ’09 season.

Before the duo even throws a pitch, they’ve already impressed their coach by their off-field leadership.

“The captains did a great job this offseason setting the tempo, hitting the weight room, getting everyone organized and on the same page,” Barrale said. “They have really enhanced the atmosphere surrounding the team, things are a little more serious, there is a little more commitment. We needed to take it up a level and those guys have helped us do that.”

The other four seniors include Zach Stone, a first baseman/pitcher; Taylor Mikell, a first baseman/designated hitter; Barrett Allison, an infielder, and Martin Green, who will serve in a utility role after missing last season while studying abroad.

Barrale’s plan when deciding on a starting line-up is simple: start with the best defensive line-up and go from there. He said he wants to give his strong pitching staff as much support as possible. The Ephs committed 84 errors in 36 games last season, leading to 66 unearned runs for opponents.

Benz finished 6-2 with a 3.36 ERA last season while holding opponents to a .198 batting average against in 59 innings of work. Horwitz was 3-2 with a 3.83 ERA and struck out 37 batters in 49 innings. Junior Paul Burgdorf is one of the leading candidates to be the third starter after going 3-2 with a 3.47 ERA last season. Junior Tom Coleman is vying for a starter’s spot but could also be used as the team’s closer. Last season he struck out 25 batters while walking only six over 24 frames.

Others expected to get starters innings while the team plays eight games in four days out west include sophomore Wilson Barr and first-year Harry Marino (Westfield, NJ), a southpaw. In all, Barrale has 15 players who can pitch, and he said all 15 will see action during the Arizona trip.
Expect to see a lot of Stone and sophomore Tom Hester (1.74 ERA as a first-year) in the late innings with a lead. Sophomore Dan Marcet will also be counted on. First-years vying for innings include Evan Oleson (White Plains, N.Y.), Dan Grossman (Indianapolis, Ind.) and Ed Nadel (San Mateo, Calif.).

“It’s the strength of our team, no doubt,” he said. “It’s been a challenge in practice getting all the guys enough work, but we’ve had a lot of inter-squad scrimmages and that’s really helped. I think our hitters will be better too, for facing such good pitching over the last five weeks.”

The Ephs hit .327 as a team in ’08 and despite the losses of James DiCosmo (.382) and Max Pinto (.388), have a lot back in that department. Some of the veterans returning include right fielder Al Mathews (.384, 30 RBI), shortstop Robin Allemand (.354, 43 runs scored, 15 steals), and outfielder Pat Barren (.311 in limited duty).

In addition, Stone (.311) and Mikell (.310) will likely be in the line-up every day, be it at first base or designated hitter. Chad Brown, who did most of the catching last year, will see time in the infield, outfield and behind the plate, but Barrale said his .333 batting average must be in the line-up somewhere.

The Ephs have three major positions to fill: left field, center field, and second base, and two others where competitions have opened up: third base and catcher. Barren is the favorite for the left field slot, but at many other positions, a first-year has thrust his name into the spotlight.
Centerfield, where Pinto roamed, may come down to first-years Stephen Maier (Orange, CT) and Ben Oliva (Pacific Palisades, CA), although Jamal Johnson (Longview, Tx.) and Matt Berdoff (Greenwich, CT) will also be given a look-see.

At catcher, Chase Davenport (Dover, Mass.) will share time with Brown. At third base, senior Barrett Allison will be pushed by Brown and first-year Cameron Susk (Woodside, CA). At second base, sophomore James Allison and junior Jim Entwisle will vie for time.

“We have a good combination of young talent and veteran players,” Barrale said. “We’ll have to see how much the younger players are ready for prime time.”

Barrale knows no matter how it comes together, the competition in the conference is likely to be fierce this season. Middlebury and Amherst are loaded again, Wesleyan is much improved, and in the East Division resides the defending national champions from Trinity.

“Our goals are to focus in on those 12 league games and play as well as we can,” Barrale said. “All the games surrounding those 12 games are to prepare for those 12 games. It’s a very difficult league, but ultimately we want to be the best team in it.”

Williams opens its season Sunday at Saqauro High School in Scottsdale, Az. against Eastern Connecticut with two nine-inning games. First pitch is 11 a.m. PST.