WILLIAMSTOWN, MA — The question has been asked before, but begs repeating: Is this year the Williams College baseball team puts it all together?
The possibilities are out there, the opportunities exist. The talent is undeniable. So it all comes down to execution, according to head coach Bill Barrale, back for his 9th season at the helm of the Ephs.
"I've said this before and I'll say it again: We're going to take it one pitch at a time," Barrale noted. "We're trying to teach our guys to win that battle first and let the game take care of itself. Of course we want to win the NESCAC West and qualify for the NCAA Tournament — that's everyone's goal — but we're going to focus on one pitch at a time to get there."
Barrale's crew of 25 is led by a group of seven seniors, and includes co-captains Phil McGovern and Thomas Murphy. "Those two guys did a great job in the offseason of keeping our guys organized and focused, which is crucial," Barrale said. "And that has led to us having a great preseason."
Co-captains McGovern and Murphy will be joined by classmates Luke Pierce, Kirby Neuner, Eddie Kelley, Jake Slater and Dylan Griswold. Murphy and McGovern will compose the Ephs' No. 1 battery, Pierce will start in the outfield, Neuner will be a super-utility guy who also will see time in relief, and Kelly and Slater will be key components of the bullpen.
Griswold has missed much of the last two seasons with an injury but has worked hard to return and has Barrale hopeful he could see some time on the diamond this spring.
In addition to leading the team as a captain, Murphy is the ace of the staff, going 5-2 with a 3.77 earned run average last season. In seven starts, he completed three games and was second on the team in innings pitched with 43.
McGovern will start at catcher after hitting .276 with 7 doubles and 16 RBI a year ago. Pierce should start in left. He batted .312 in 2014 with 8 stolen bases, second on the team. He also banged out 3 triples, second on the squad.
Slater, who will get first crack at the closer's job this spring, went 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA last season. Kelly had 1 save and a 5.17 ERA and was second on the team in relief appearances with 10.
The five-person junior class will also be critical to the Ephs' performance this season and includes Danny Smith, who will be a weekend starter for Williams after going 1-2 over 4 starts in 2015. Arnie Capute, who started three games for the Ephs last year and Alex Beschloss, who saw action in four games are also expected to get plenty of opportunities.
Junior Beau Horan can play three infield positions but likely will start at second base, while outfielder David Rosas is a huge asset in the field and at the plate. Rosas hit .306 in limited duty (36 AB) last season and excels at the short game (bunt, hit and run, etc.).
The sophomores are equally critical and the class contains standout Jack Cloud, a center or right fielder who led the Ephs in hitting last season with a .402 batting average. Jack Roberts played in 29 games last year and mostly at second base, but he'll switch over to shortstop this season. He hit .302 last year. Nate Michalski is at the head of the line for the first base job after batting .230 as a first-year. Jackson Parese will see time in the infield, particularly second base.
There are four sophomore hurlers: Luke Rodino will be the No. 2 guy on the starting staff after tossing 24 innings over three starts in 2015. Tyler Duff (LH) and Marcus Colella (RH) both saw limited relief innings a year ago and are expected to be a big part of the relief corps this season. Cole Futterman has changed his arm slot and Barrale is excited at the opportunity that lies ahead for him in a relief role.
There are six first years as well, including one walk-on on the roster. Adam Regensburg will start the season at third base but move to the outfield after classmate Doug Schaffer returns from an injury. Adam Dulsky is an excellent defensive catcher and will handle those duties with McGovern.
Connor Dunn possesses great make-up and poise, and is expected to battle for a mid-week start or two. Lev Schechter walked onto the squad and will be a utility infielder that can play three or four different positions.
"I think we're going to hit," Barrale said. "And I think our defense is going to be solid. We just have to pitch better. Tanner (new assistant coach Tanner McIntyre) has been working with the guys on keeping their mechanics with a specific result in mind. He's done a nice job since joining us and I think that will be reflected on the field."
Williams opens it season Sunday with a game against Valley City State at 11 a.m. MST and one against Carleton at 1:30 P.M. MST.