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Breaking the ice: Spring Preview

By Brendon Kaufman '15, Sterling Xie '16

March 7, 2013

Baseball

Brendon Kaufman '15

With a revamped attitude and many new faces, the Hamilton Continentals baseball team looks to build upon a solid base developed last year. Last summer, captains Tommy Moriarty ’14, Sam Fuentes ’13, Lukas Bridenbeck ’13 and Gabe Klein ’13 decided to make a drastic change to the program. Starting in the fall, the team developed a regular routine of lifting, cardio and skills-based work to prepare for the season. Coach Tim Byrnes alluded to the success of the “completely student-driven” program, noting how “it has played a tremendous role in [their] physical presence.” That physical presence may be just what the team needs to improve.

The Continentals struggled at the plate last year, posting a .238 team batting average and a .328 OBP. Klein, a NESCAC all-conference team member, will surely play a role in trying to improve those numbers. In a stellar year, Klein, who will man first base, put up an unbelievable .504 OBP and team-leading .351 BA. The team also welcomes aboard two new assistant coaches in Danny Barth and Brett Botsford, the latter being a former Le Moyne College daily starter who is sure to help steer the team in the right direction. The speedy Fuentes and the consistent Bridenbeck will also add key bats to the lineup. Unfortunately, the Continentals will miss Sam Choate ’12 and John Wulf ’12. Choate left as a top 5 hitter in almost every offensive category and Wulf, a sort of “Mr. Everything,” provided important leadership and wisdom. With them leaves the bitter taste of a deceiving 6-26 record that does not tell the whole story.

Last year, the team often caught tough breaks in what many perceived to be pivotal games, such as an 11-10 heartbreaker to Washington College. It also sported an incredibly young staff throughout the season. Most notably, the starting rotation was composed of three right-handed first-years in Alex Pachella ’15, Jjay Lane ’15 and Ryan Crawford ’15, while Tyler Reinhold ’15, Thomas Merriman ’15 and Joe Jensen ’15 occupied crucial roles throughout the lineup. All of those first-years, except Merriman, return this year with a season under their belt and an equal if not larger role on the team.

Reinhold and Jensen will accompany Fuentes in the outfield. Reinhold provides promising power, hitting one of the team’s eight homeruns last year and Jensen, coming off of a successful track season as a sprinter, adds a pleasant burst of speed. As for the rotation, look for Pachella, a three-game winner and leader in team ERA, to lead the unit again this year.  Lane and Crawford, who shined at multiple moments throughout last season, will also eat up their share of innings.

The pitching situation will certainly be a dynamic part of this team. According to Byrnes, the team will try out three two-man tandems to take on the doubleheaders over the spring break trip. In addition to the three sophomores, Colin Henneberger ’14, Steve Wright ’13 and Cole Dreyfuss ’16 will all see starts in Florida.

The bullpen, much like last year, remains full of questions. The one sure thing lies with captain and submariner Moriarty who logged a majority of the innings last year. However, six players who had experience in the bullpen have left the team, leading to uncertainty. Joe Wagner ’14 and Andrew Jaffoni ’15, “wildcards” says Byrnes, are emerging as the most likely candidates to assume significant roles. If the bullpen is able to lock in, they could be incredibly effective.

Just like last year, the Continentals will make use of first-years in key roles. In addition to Dreyfuss being a presence on the mound, Tim Burke ’16 will provide a key bat and Zach Becker ’16 will provide a sure hand in the infield. That certainly will be needed as the Continentals cannot afford to repeat the .922 fielding percentage of last year. According to Byrnes, the team has gone back to basics to attempt to remedy this issue. The problems, which were mostly caused by the instability in the middle infield, may be solved by Burke, Becker and Brian Ferrell ’16, all of whom will see time in the slots from 2nd to 3rd base.

Ultimately, Hamilton stands a chance if they are able to convert their off-season work into large improvements at the plate and in the field. If the team can get off to a fast start in Florida, something that evaded them last year, they could surprise in a few NESCAC series down the stretch. They will also need to be consistent, especially in pitching, as the team is scheduled for 39 games, a would-be record if the tundra of the northeast does not get in the way. Be sure to track the Continentals as they play over spring break.

 

Lacrosse

Sterling Xie '16

For many athletes, the biggest improvement often comes between their first and second seasons. The men’s and women’s lacrosse teams certainly hope that holds true this spring, which will be each team’s second year in the NESCAC after years of dominating the Liberty League. In their inaugural seasons, the men went 9-6 (5-5 in conference) en route to a playoff berth. The women finished 7-10 (4-6 in conference), but upset second seeded Colby College in the NESCAC playoffs.

On the women’s side, Coach Patty Kloidt enters her 11th season as head coach, leading one of her most inexperienced teams in quite some time. Defensively, the Conts will be replacing multiple starters, meaning that several underclassmen must show progression to shore up the backline.

However, Kloidt is confident that the more experienced players will be able to lead the team.

“For the first time in a very long time, our defense will be the most inexperienced part of our team, but we have some players that are absolutely ready to step into big roles,” said Kloidt. Paige Engeldrum ’13 will be our defensive leader. She’s been on the field since [she was] a freshmen, and we’re really counting on her to deliver back there.”

Fortunately, the team’s offensive game should be a considerable strength, as it will be led by Rachel Friedman ’13, whose 149 goals place her fourth all-time on the women’s scoring list. While this statistic is impressive, Friedman wants to concentrate on what she can do to contribute to her team’s cohesion and success.

“At the end of the day, the number of goals you score is just a number,” said Friedman. “The experiences and victories I have with my teammates is ultimately what I will remember.”

While she admits that one has to be patient when leading a younger team, she is confident in the younger players’ talent and potential. She also noted, “It is reassuring to know that your effort is going to pay off when your underclassmen are fearless and excited to play and compete.”

Juniors Katie D’Antonio and Kathryn Malorano round out what should prove a potent attack. Indeed, Kloidt is counting on leadership from the team’s experienced core to guide the team through the always arduous NESCAC schedule. “We have been focusing on our mental toughness so far,” says Kloidt, noting the team’s participation in “The Program,” a grueling two-day exercise led by a British commando that focuses on team cohesion and leadership qualities. Kloidt believes last year’s disappointment will foster a greater weekly focus that allows the team to compete consistently the entire season.

“We kind of knew what we were getting into in 2012,” she says, “but there’s a difference between playing one game in May against a NESCAC team and playing them every week. We now know what to expect every week and the effort that we have to maintain against that level of competition.” Friedman is prepared “to bring one hundred percent to every game.”

While she knows the team had high expectations last year that were not fully met, she thinks that “this year we have a strong work ethic, coupled with more mental toughness,” which will help the team to “be more prepared to battle in the close games and come out on top.”

The men’s team’s Head Coach Scott Barnard places a similar value on having the mental toughness to finish close games. After playing an astounding seven one-goal games last season, Barnard believes his veteran-laden roster is better equipped to handle the high-stress situations that can make or break a team’s season.

“We just want to execute, be fundamentally sound and be mentally tougher—those are the things that win tight games,” said Barnard. “We’ve got to continue to execute at a high level in the clutch. Last year though we were a good defensive team we had too many penalties. That really hurt us, so we’re looking for more discipline on that end.”

Unlike the women’s team, the men’s strength will lie in their defense. The Conts did not graduate any defensemen, meaning their entire defensive unit will return intact. Led by seniors Ed Reed and Mike Flacco, the defense should provide stingy resistance as the team attempts to solve its biggest mystery, their starting goalie. Coach Barnard has yet to name a starter, as the three-way competition winds down between Will Driscoll ’15, Barrett Meister ’14 and Will Robbins ’15.

“Even though we haven’t named a starter yet, we have a great competition in the goal this year,” said Barnard. “We’re trying to replace a three year starter in Max Vaickus, and it’s an exciting time [with] new players emerging.  The competition’s been great and things are starting to shake themselves out.”

If the team can get timely stops defensively, the offense should be well equipped to carry the load. Despite the loss of reigning NESCAC player of the year Jon Leanos, the team returns several senior attack and midfielders, led by captains Mike Clarke ’13, Luke Walsh ’13 and Bryan Hopper ’14.

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