With the start of the 2012 baseball just around the corner, hope will spring eternal for Beavers. Equipped with one of its deepest rosters in recent seasons, Caltech will look to a core group of returners to bring along a talented and capable group of first year players.
"There are pieces in place, even before the season has started, which gives me a sense of excitement for what this team could do this season," head coach John D'Auria said. "If we put in the hard work and stay disciplined we are going to have a successful season."
Video - Captain Eric Schropp Outlook
Eric Schropp is looking to finish his Beaver career on a high note. The senior started slow in 2011 but rebounded to hit over .300 in Caltech's last 13 games. An all-conference performer during his sophomore campaign, Schropp's leadership, defense at shortstop and three-hole hitting will be vital to all-aspects of Caltech's success.
"He is going to a carry a big load for us this season. We ask a lot of Eric both on and off the field," D'Auria said. "The team responds to him and he will have to lead them well."
Also returning to aid the Beaver offense is Daniel Sexton. Last season as Sexton played either first base or caught in 27 of the Beavers 31 games while leading the team with a .286 batting average. The senior hit four triples last season which was tied for second in the SCIAC.
"Daniel provides a huge lift from us when he is in the line-up. While his bat is important in the clean-up spot, his defense is just as important to our overall success," D'Auria said.
A trio of senior will also see significant playing time at a variety of positions. David Carrega, Brendan Sheehan and Nick Robertson combined to play in 81 games during the 2011 campaign. Carrega and Sheehan will get the starting nod in the outfield while Robertson will see significant playing time at first base.
"Each of them can play a variety of positions which will help us mix-and-match our line-up," D'Auria said. "All five of our seniors have given a tremendous amount to this program and I really want to see each of them go out on a good note."
A pair of juniors will factor into the starting nine on a regular basis. Scott Yantek has been a steady contributor in the Beaver outfield and on the pitching mound during his first two seasons with the program. Brian Penserini played at a variety positions in the 21 games he played in during the 2011 campaign. Penerini started 11 games on the mound last season and will, once again, be called upon for 12-15 starts this season.
In the past the pitching has been a big void the Beavers have had trouble filling. However, with a handful of options at his disposal, D'Auria shouldn't have trouble sending someone to the bump.
Albie Lavin appeared in 10 games last season (starting seven) during his first season with the Beavers. Junior Mason Freedman is poised for a good season on the diamond since deciding to focus solely on baseball. Freedman got a late start last year after playing on the basketball team but still managed to play in 17 games during the 2011 season. First year Jerome Skelly will also chip-in significant playing time on the diamond.
"That trio of players will be vital to not only our pitching but also our play at third base. They give us depth at both positions we haven't had in a while," D'Auria said. "Each of them brings a good attitude to the field every day."
The first year combo of Ryan Casey and Derek Kearney will also be key contributors on the mound. Expect each of them to make both starting and relief appearances during the course of the season while seeing playing time in the outfield.
Caltech's season gets underway on Saturday, Jan. 28 with a game against Pacifica College. The Beavers SCIAC schedule starts so there after with a three-game set against La Verne from Feb. 10-11.
"This is a great deal of optimism around this team. If we compete hard day-in and day-out it's going to a good season. We have the ability to sneak up on some of our opponents," D'Auria said.