With their season opener a mere two weeks away, the Amherst baseball team is feeling confident in the depth and experience of this year’s squad.
Junior captain Harry Roberson said, “We’re very excited for this year. We’re more of a veteran team, which I think will be a strength of ours, but there’s also a good mix of younger guys who’ll get a chance to contribute. There’s been a good buzz through the first couple weeks.”
The purple and white hope to improve upon last year’s 24-13 record, as they intend to claim first place in the NESCAC West Division for the second year in a row.
Once again, Amherst looks to compete with Little Three rivals Williams and Wesleyan for the West division crown and the right to take part in the double-elimination NESCAC tournament. Last year, after tying with Wesleyan in the West, the purple and white moved on to the conference tournament, where they lost both games to Tufts and Trinity.
They are returning many key players, but perhaps most notable are Roberson, Jackson Volle ’17, and senior captain Yanni Thanopoulos. A Second Team All-NESCAC selection, Roberson commands the infield as one of the league’s most talented shortstops. Volle garnered First Team honors after boasting a league-best 1.94 ERA last year, and Amherst will look to him once again to lead their pitching staff.
Thanopoulos, widely considered by his teammates to be one of the most naturally talented players on the roster, led the team in RBIs last year.
Perhaps Amherst’s biggest concern for the 2017 season is who will replace Conner Gunn ’16. The former captain was a big part of last season’s success, as he led the squad from his position as starting catcher.
The expectation was that Joe Feldman ’18 would take over the job this year, but a persisting hip injury has brought the junior’s collegiate career to an unfortunate end. With no other “true” catchers on the roster, the purple and white have had to convert Christian Pluchar ’18 and Sevy Tocci ’20. The two will have to step up if Amherst is to stay at the top of the conference.
First up for the purple and white is a spring break trip to Port Charlotte, Florida, where they will play eight preseason games in anticipation of their upcoming NESCAC tour. Roberson has said that this year’s preseason schedule is “probably the toughest we’ve ever had, including opening up with the No. 2 ranked team in the country, so we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Amherst will then open conference play with a pair of games against Bowdoin on Sunday, April 2. In all likelihood, the purple and white’s chances of making a deep postseason run will come down to their three-game series against the Cardinals. After traveling to Wesleyan and falling in the series 2-1, with two games needing extra innings, Amherst will get to take on the Cardinals twice at home this year in what figures to be a tight affair.
To open the season, however, the purple and white will face Keystone College, ranked second in the nation, on Sunday, March 12 in an effort to establish themselves as one of the top teams in the country.