WILLIAMSTOWN, MA — A year ago, the Wiliams College baseball team had a .633 winning percentage, but did not make the postseason. Head coach Bill Barrale believes that will act as a motivating factor for his 2018 squad, which will be smaller in quantity but large in talent.
The Ephs return their complete infield from a squad that finished 19-11 one year ago, including 2017 NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year and First Team All-NESCAC selection Kellen Hatheway (shortstop) and Second Team All-NESCAC selection, senior captain Jack Roberts (second base). Roberts will be be joined by fellow captains; senior Adam Regensburg and junior Alex Panstares.
"We have three great captains," Barrale noted. "I love their leadership and what they've done in the offseason. I think 95 percent of our guys worked extremely hard in the offseason, hitting the weight room, getting stronger, getting better. We have good defenders back, I think we have speed where we did not have it last year, and I think the strength of the team will be out hitting — the middle of our order has the chance to be special."
Hatheway posted a .936 fielding percentage and made just nine errors in 140 total chances this season for the Ephs. At the plate, he hit .362 with a team-high 42 hits, including 12 doubles which tied for second among the league leaders. He also led Williams in runs (38) and drove in 25 runs. His slugging percentage of .603 was tops on the team. Hatheway was the first Eph to earn the NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year honor. Roberts was second among regular on Williams with a .368 batting average. He also walked 11 times and had a .446 on-base percentage and a .509 slugging percentage. He finished with seven doubles, a triple and two home runs while knocking in 27 runs (second on the team) and scoring 22 runs. He also stole five bases on the season.
The Ephs also have seniors Adam Dulsky and Michael Cassidy. Dulsky will split time behind the plate with junior co-captain Panstares. An able receiver with a strong arm, Dulsky batted .262 with three doubles and nine RBI. Cassidy is also a swimmer and qualified for nationals, but once he joins the Ephs he'll likely pitch out of the bullpen. He was 0-0 with a 4.50 ERA in six innings out of the pen in 2017.
Barrale's junior class is loaded with impact players, beginning with the aforementioned Hatheway at short, but continuing at third with Doug Shaffer, behind the plate with Panstares, at first base with David Kwan and on the bump with Jack Bohen, Will O'Brien and Tom Benz. Shaffer will man the hot corner and hit .218 last year, but walked a team-leading 27 times and finished with a .423 on-base percentage. Panstares, who also employs a strong arm behind the plate, batted .258 last year, while Kwan saw limited duty with 18 at-bats.
Bohen is a candidate for the third weekend starter behind sophomores Kyle Dean and Charlie Carpenter. He will vie with O'Brien and Benz for that spot. Last year, Bohen went 1-1 with one save and struck out 13 in 13 1/3 innings. O'Brien struck out nine in 10 1/3 innings, all in relief, and Benz threw 8 2/3 innings of relief.
The aforementioned Dean and Carpenter lead the sophomore class. Dean led the Ephs in ERA in 2017, finishing 2-1 with two saves and a 1.38 ERA over 23 innings of work. Carpenter was 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in 10 frames. Mike Stamas is a speedy outfielder who will likely see time at a corner outfield position. He had a .377 on-base percentage as a first-year in 2017.
The first-year class is led by George Carroll and Bryan Woolley, both of whom will have a chance to earn that third weekend starter spot, joining the three juniors. Barrale's first-year class is 10-deep and so there is a lot of unknown as far as who will transition well to the college game. But there is a lot of talent out there, and includes, Frank Stola, John DiGravio, Eric Pappas, Erik Mini, Philip Barnett, Nehemiah Wilson, Ed Manzella and Jeremy Irzyk.
"We have a lot of good arms, and we'll have a chance to evaluate them for the first 10 games in California," Barrale said. "I'm confident if we avoid free bases, we will be all right. We have a good defense up the middle, so we need to focus on pitching to contact rather than worrying about striking people out. But mostly we just need to focus on the task at hand without worrying who our opponent is."
Barrale expects the NESCAC West Division to be as competitive as ever with defending champion Middlebury, Amherst, Wesleyan and Hamilton all improving.
"The division is as good as it can be," he said. "There is no pushover among the teams. It's going to be exciting to see who emerges out of there and qualifies for the conference tournament. "
Williams opens its season Monday, March 19, with a 6 p.m. EST game at Cal Tech.