Coast Guard returns plenty of veterans this year as nine of the top ten hitters and all but one pitcher return for the 2017 season from a team that finished 16-21 overall, 8-9 in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) and qualified for the conference tournament for the second straight season.
“The strength of our returners is the pitching staff,” said head coach C.C. Grant in his 11th season. “We are as deep as we have been in my 11 years and I’m looking for big years out of seniors tri-captain Colton Cannon and Eric Vrissis at the top of our rotation as well as senior Luke Sniatkowski, coming back from injury, out of the bullpen.” Cannon was 4-1 with a 3.83 ERA to earn New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) second team All-conference honors.
Sophomores Dustin Reeder (3-1, 3.82), Walter Harris (3-3, 4.71) and Dan Finn (2-3) will also be key components to the Bears pitching rotation this season.
The bullpen has plenty of returners in senior Justin Rebholz, who missed most of last season with an injury, junior Joe Siciliano along with sophomores Jack Brandt, Brian Delp, who also returns from injury, Will Stephens and Robert Marrant. Freshman Ben Webster, who has been slowed by an injury, will be counted on later in the season while freshman Brett Sullivan will be the closer this season. Sophomore outfielder Trey Rittenhouse and junior third baseman Zach Serna will also add depth to the bullpen this season.
Senior tri-captains Kyle Jackson (.315, 2 HR, 19 RBI)
and Timbo Duncan (.236, 2 HR, 17 RBI) will anchor the outfield and be key hitters in the middle of the order for the Bears.
Serna, who led the team with a .358 average, 10 doubles and 23 RBI last season, will also be counted on to be a key contributor in the heart of the lineup.
Sophomore Luke Thompson (.286) and Rittenhouse also return to a very deep outfield which includes junior Tucker Williams along with top freshman Alex Cordes and classmate Michael Goldsworthy.
The Bears infield will see plenty of new faces with a trio of new starters at first, second and short. Freshman Jon Pressley and sophomore Reed Jenkins will both see time at first base, sophomore Jake Behne will start at second base while Stephens will be the Bears starting shortstop while freshman Josh Nguyen-Domingo will backup at both second and shortstop
“We need to be better defensively than we were last year and coach Turgeon has worked with the infield and they have been outstanding and continue to get better each day,” said Grant.
The Bears are thin at the hot corner behind Serna, however that is not the case behind the plate as a return a trio of catchers led by junior Alex Murdoch (.256) along with classmate Christian Toscano (.296), who split time last season and have plenty of experience, along with the emergence of sophomore Jeremy Lhotka, who can also give the Bears an extra bat in the lineup at the designated hitter spot.
Another key to the season will be the return of senior Brendan McNeil, who missed all of last season with an injury, he has swung the bat well in preseason and will see plenty of time as a designated hitter while also being able to play the outfield.
“I’m excited as we enter the season and I think we a have a nice mix of experienced upperclassmen along with a lot of talent all over the field in the freshman and sophomore class,” said Grant. Coast Guard will open the season early this year with a three-game series against Centre College in Atlanta on Feb. 18-19 before heading on its annual trip to the Gene Cusic Classic in Fort Myers, Fla. two weeks later to play eight games.
“I like to try to get games before we head to Florida and with the weather we have up North, I don’t believe we could have played, so going to Atlanta and being able to play three games give us an advantage before you start playing on a daily basis".
"We are bringing the whole roster to Atlanta and that’s not the case with Florida, so this trip gives the team a chance to GEL as a team away from the Academy and just concentrate on baseball and that’s a huge deal and no matter HOW we do in those Atlanta games we will be that much better before we even step on the field in Florida,” said Grant.