Sports

Despite new faces, Salisbury baseball is tooled to recapture CAC crown

By ZACH GILLELAND & CHASE GORSKI

Copy Editor/News Editor

@_zachariahg @cgorski12

Featured photo: The Salisbury baseball team meets in a huddle during the 2017 season. Hannah Wichrowski photo

 

SU Head Baseball Coach Troy Brohawn knows how close his team was to making the team’s sixth NCAA World Series appearance last season.

2017 marked another successful season for the Salisbury University baseball team, winning the program’s 14th Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) championship and advancing to a 23rd NCAA Tournament. But there was still something left to be desired.

Nine outs away from a spot in the World Series, the Sea Gulls’ pitching wore down in the sixth inning, giving up seven runs en route to a 13-5 loss to an upstart Roanoke program.

“It still bits a little bit and is still a sore spot with us,” Brohawn said. “We didn’t play well enough to make it to the World Series.”

With the regional final behind them, Salisbury baseball enters the 2018 season as the favorites in the CAC. 17-1 in conference play and outscoring opponents 82-17 in the CAC Tournament, the Sea Gulls are primed for a three-peat.

A maroon and gold club notorious for a high-powered offense, Salisbury returns six players who hit .300 or higher with a minimum of 60 at-bats. SU finished second in all of Division III with 49 home runs last season.

Gone in the infield are mainstays Pete Grasso and Tom LaBriola, who combined for 1,024 career at-bats. But the club returns with added depth on offense.

Junior third baseman Jack Barry and junior first baseman Jay Perry add to the team’s power, combining for 21 home runs last year. Senior shortstop Scott Ardoin had a break out season in 2017, batting .341 and allowing Grasso to slide over to second.

The outfield may once again feature a rotation at the corners as sophomore Justin Meekins looks to be entrenched in center field. Last season’s leadoff hitter, Meekins had an eye-popping .542 on base percentage after drawing 44 walks and being hit by 28 pitches.

The Sea Gulls boast a tough out of conference slate to begin the year, facing No. 1 Cortland State. After road games against Virginia Wesleyan and a doubleheader against Dickinson, Oswego State comes to town. Other notable games include home matchups against John’s Hopkins, Catholic and Keystone College.

The Big Question

Wichrowski Canavan swing
Senior outfielder Kyle Canavan takes a swing last season. Hannah Wichrowski photo

The story of 2017 was pitching.

A liability in the beginning of the season, the staff took control in the latter part of the year, finishing with a 4.07 ERA. With Grasso, Jeff Oster and Micah Wells graduating, Salisbury looks to match the success of last year’s rotation with less experienced arms.

Senior Connor Reeves is the likely favorite to become the maroon and gold’s featured starter. The right-hander acted as a swingman in 2017, working as both a reliever and a starter when the team needed him. Reeves finished with 23 appearances, starting five with a 4.06 ERA in 62 innings.

Aside from Reeves, spots in the rotation are mainly up for grabs. Brohawn mentioned position players Jack Barry, Colby Dean and Brad Keith—who pitched 30 1/3 innings in 2017—as names who could potentially find themselves on the mound.

“On the mound we brought in some guys to replace, Pete, Oster and Micah as our 1-2-3 and we’ve got some young guys who have really developed over the summer who I am particularly excited about,” Brohawn said. “I’m excited about the pitching staff, but a lot of them don’t have game experience.”

Another key for the Sea Gulls is sorting out the bullpen. Although an issue last season, the majority of the bullpen returns.

Fresh New Digs

Saturday marks the opening of the new Sea Gull Baseball Stadium. With a new press box and artificial turf surface, it marks a much-needed improvement over the previous field.

But with the new stadium comes new adjustments. Brohawn said the team has worked with adjusting to the new hops and caroms the ball makes with the new turf.

“We had a little bit of an advantage with the old turf to be honest,” Brohawn said. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world, the stadium is beautiful.”

The Sea Gulls open up their 2018 campaign in a weekend slate against No. 1 Cortland State Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday at noon.

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