WILLIAMSTOWN, MA — It's been an interesting couple of seasons for Williams College baseball coach Bill Barrale, who is back for his seventh season at the helm of the Ephs' baseball program.
Two years ago, Barrale's Ephs finished 24-11 but just 5-7 in conference play, missing out on the conference tournament. Last year the Ephs finished under .500 at 17-21, but went 7-5 in the NESCAC West and made a run in the tournament, winning one game and losing two by one run each.
This season, the Ephs are hoping to put it all together, led by a class of eight seniors who have plenty of talent and experience.
As always, the hopes of the Ephs rest heavily on the young arms on the pitching staff. The good news is there are plenty of arms for Barrale to choose from. At the top of that list is junior southpaw Steve Marino (2-3, 3.91 ERA) and sophomore right-hander Thomas Murphy (3-3, 3.14 ERA), who both were part of the weekend rotation last season.
The battle for the critical third spot in that rotation includes senior Patrick Blizzard, and first-years Dan Smith and Arnie Capute. None of those candidates pitched last season as Blizzard missed the season due to injury.
"We have a lot of good, live arms," Barrale said. "I think the competition amongst them has been good. The beauty of our Arizona schedule is we play so many games out there, this situation is bound to play itself out."
Candidates for the bullpen include senior captain Jimmy Ray (0-2, 6.06 ERA in '13), who is likely to be the closer for Williams. Senior Lucas Casso did a nice job for Barrale last season (2-0, 1.80 ERA in 10 IP). Kelso Stevens also threw well last season (0-0, 3.52 ERA). Barrale also expects Charlie Baxter, Jacob Slater and Tommy Stephens to play more of a role, as well as Eddie Kelley, Andrew Bishop and first-year Alex Beschloss.
The Ephs have a nice mix of returners and newcomers to help at the plate and in the field defensively. Senior co-captain Taylor Mondshein is back to handle third base more than likely. He hit .306 with a .412 on-base percentage last year.
At shortstop, Barrale is going to with the best defensive of a trio that includes Ray, Kastner first-year Beau Horan. Ray has played the position before, and having his bat in the line-up could be a plus (he hit .290 last season). Kastner led the team in batting in 2012 with a .336 average and is a solid second baseman, but Barrale said he would move him to short if he proved to be the best glove there.
"We have three good options," Barrale said.
Should Kastner move to short, you may see Ray at second or possibly first-year Bryan Jones, who has shown promise at third, short and second in the preseason. Senior K.C. Murphy has the inside edge on the first base job after batting .274 last season with one of the Ephs' five home runs and 13 RBI. Both Bishop and Stephens could also see time at first. Stephens also is battling for time at designated hitter with Blizzard and junior Marco Hernandez, who batted .271 with 15 RBI in 2012. Barrale wants to see Hernandez's bat in the line-up, so whether it's at DH, catcher, first base or in the outfield, he's likely to get a lot of at-bats.
In the outfield senior Darren Hartwell, a .315 hitter last season who led the team with 15 stolen bases and had four triples, will lead the Ephs. Sophomore Luke Pierce is also expected to start after hitting .297 his first campaign with a team-high six triples.
The right field spot is a competition between the aforementioned Hernandez, sophomore Kirby Neuner and Stephens. David Webster should also get some ABs in the outfield, as should Blizzard.
Eventually, sophomore Phil McGovern will be the starting catcher, he hit .276 with a team-high three homers and 17 RBI last year. But he's out with an injury to start the season, meaning senior Chance Reuger will see most of the action behind the dish. Reuger batted .310 in limited at-bats in 2013.
"We have good athletes, good team speed," Barrale said. "Last year was a tough year but I think we were playing our best ball at the end, so hopefully we can build on that. We've received tremendous leadership from our captains and the rest of the senior class, they have been great stewards of the program."
Williams will open its season Monday, March 18 with a doubleheader. The first game is against Calvin (Mi.) and the second versus Wisconsin-Superior. That begins a 15-game trip schedule that culminates with a NESCAC West three-game series against rival Middlebury.
"We'll stick with our old philosophy: One pitch at a time, this whole season is a process," Barrale said. "Especially for the pitchers. We're just going to try and win one pitch at a time. If you win every pitch, you're going to win a lot of games."