Lord Jeffs Baseball Seeking First NESCAC Championship since 2005
Issue   |   Tue, 03/05/2013 - 23:20

To say that the Lord Jeffs have lost talent to graduation would be a considerable understatement.

Last year’s senior class featured two fearsome bats in the middle of the lineup, Mike Samela and Kevin Heller. In June of last year, Heller, the program’s all-time leader in four offensive categories, was selected by the Red Sox in the MLB Amateur Draft; after a stint in the Gulf Coast League, he was called up to the Class A Lowell Spinners in September.

Samela, though he was not selected in last summer’s draft, signed with the Worcester Tornadoes of the Independent Can-Am League and still has his sights set on the majors.

Opposing pitchers won’t have to contend with either of those two, but they aren’t out of the woods yet. The Jeffs return pitcher and first baseman Bob Cook ’13, who hit .380 in 2012, and outfielder Alex Hero ’14, a career .356 hitter; outfielder Brendon Hardin ’15 and sure-handed shortstop Taiki Kasuga ’14, both offensive threats in their own right, will also be back in the mix.

The Jeffs will also be looking for contributions from a crop of 14 first-years, some of whom are currently vying for roster spots and most of whom are viable position players.

Jeff hitters will receive guidance from new hitting coach Mike Armstrong, who was hired this offseason after a two-year tenure as an assistant coach with Ithaca College.

While the offense will be strong, the main upside for the 2013 Jeffs will be their pitching staff, which looks to be largely the same as a year ago.

Starters Cook and his brother John ’15 both excelled on the mound in 2012, and junior left-hander Fred Shepard will also rejoin the Jeffs after a strong summer in which he helped lead the Wareham Gatemen to the Cape Cod Baseball League Championship.

Juniors Dylan Driscoll and Robert Cahill, along with senior Adam Medoff, also saw significant time last year and will be instrumental in bolstering the bullpen.

In both 2011 and 2012, the Jeffs showed their ability to be an elite team during the regular season. A year ago, the Jeffs headed into the NESCAC tournament at 23-8; they swept the season series against Williams, and, at one point, they won 11 out of 12 games.

Similarly, in 2011, the Jeffs were 24-8 at the close of the regular season. Both seasons, however, ended abruptly once the Jeffs reached the double-elimination NESCAC playoffs. In last year’s tournament, the Jeffs followed a heartbreaking, 11-inning loss to Bowdoin with an uncharacteristically weak effort against the Ephs, falling 9-3 in their final game.

Two years ago, Bowdoin was also the Jeffs’ nemesis, downing them by one run twice to knock them out of contention. More surprisingly, in both years, the Jeffs swept the Polar Bears in convincing fashion during their regular-season meetings.

Given this, the Jeffs’ mantra for the 2013 season will undoubtedly be: finish. Their focus will largely be on staying healthy during the regular season to prepare for mid-May, when they will hope to avenge those still-fresh losses.

As for their regular season schedule, the Jeffs will face no surprises, squaring off with familiar foes Hamilton, Williams, Middlebury, Wesleyan and Colby.

Their week-long road trip to the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational starts on Saturday, March 16, when they face off against Western New England. After a meeting with Keene State on March 27, the Jeffs will begin league play in earnest with three games against the Panthers over the weekend of April 5-6.

The following weekend (April 12-13), the Jeffs will face the Ephs for a home-and-home series; they travel to Clinton, N.Y. to face the Continentals on April 20-21 and then play a home-and-home with Wesleyan on the weekend of April 26.

A road double-header against Colby on May 4 will be the Jeffs’ final tune-up for the playoffs.

Coach Brian Hamm’s squad will be looking once again to capture the Little Three title and finally, come playoff time, to make a serious run at the NESCAC title, a feat for which they will be equipped with the necessary talent.

Though it would be a bonus, a trip to the NCAA Div. III Tournament is, as was the case in 2011 and 2012, certainly not out of the question.