NORTHFIELD, Vt. – The Norwich University baseball team is eyeing a return to the conference playoffs and beyond, with a well-balanced roster, in the 2019 season.
Last season, the Cadets posted an overall record of 7-23 with a 7-7 mark in Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) play. Norwich qualified for the GNAC playoffs for the second consecutive season and earned the #5 seed before falling on the road to Lasell College in the First Round.
NU returns 18 from last year's squad while bringing in 13 newcomers as head coach Frank Pecora returns for his fourth season at the helm of the program.
"This team is more athletic than any team we've had under me and our depth is going to work well for us also," Pecora said.
Senior first baseman Jacob Barlow (Newburyport, Mass.), senior infielder Mike Lesco (Somers, Conn.) and senior pitcher Jake Ryan (Arlington, Mass.) have been named team captains for the 2019 campaign.
"Our captains have been thorough and strong leaders and combined with our other seniors they are aiming to make this a statement year. One that when they look back on it they will be proud to know that they helped us turn the corner," Pecora added.
When asked about the large crop of newcomers to the team, Pecora said, "freshmen Connor McGee (Wakefield, R.I.) and Cameron Chamberlain (Marlborough, N.H.) have really stepped up and provided a lot of depth at the catcher position. So much so we took one of our catchers (junior Jake Godbee (Ormond Beach, Fla.)) and filled a need at pitcher. We have freshman Hunter Lavigne (Charlton, Mass.) who will back up Barlow at first base and we have added freshman Luis Molina (Terryville, Conn.) at third base and freshmen Michael Koytikh (Melrose, Mass.) and Hayden Roberge (Middlesex, Vt.) in the outfield."
This year's team certainly doesn't lack anything in roster size, but Pecora is already planning ways to get more players into the lineup. "It's going to be fun to try to get all of these guys the playing time that they deserve, but it will also be a lot of work because we have to keep everyone sharp to continue their growth as players."
The number of players kept at each position was by the design of Pecora and his coaching staff, dating back to tryouts in the fall of 2018. "One of the things that we tried to do when we paired the team down during tryouts was to keep two people at each position and at third base, catcher and second base are the only positions we have with more than two guys."
One of the biggest areas of competition for a starting position will be at the hot corner in 2019.
"There are three guys competing for the starting third baseman job, junior Brendon Profita (New Milford, Conn.), junior Chris Dayos (Temecula, Calif.) and Molina will vie for it. We also have freshman Jacob Preston (Northfield, Vt.) who will be a utility infielder, moving around for us this year."
In terms of pitching, "Right now we are planning on leaning heavily on Ryan, as well as freshman Tanner Raymond (Southbury, Conn.), freshman Jon Grasso (Haddam, Conn.) and juniors Nick Landis (South Berwick, Maine) and CJ Davis (South Berwick, Maine). In the bullpen we have a lot of players with potential to eat up innings for us, it will just be all about riding the hot hand."
The Cadets take the field for their first games of the season on Saturday, March 2nd for a doubleheader at Cairn University. The twinbill is set for noon and 2:30 p.m. They will then take on Stockton University on Sunday, March 3rd at noon and 2:30 p.m. as well before heading to Florida for the team's annual Spring Break trip.
"This year we are going to use our first four games to try to sort out our lineup and then when we get to Florida we are playing to win," Pecora said. "We don't want to come back from that trip winless this year, as we have a few times in the past."
This year marks a first for Coach Pecora as each of his assistant coaches (Brian Baker NU'16, Kevin Brickey and Billy Whaley NU'17) are former players of his. "All three of my assistants are former players as well as student-coach Leland Goodenough. so it is very interesting because we are looking at each other through different lights now. They are looking at me a little differently, still as their head coach, but now on a bit of a different level."
Norwich's first conference matchup is set for Saturday, March 23rd at Suffolk University at 1:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.