Under the guidance of second-year head coach Matthew Mark the Caltech baseball squad will use a mix of experienced returners mixed-in with some new blood to continue an upward swing for the program.
Last season the squad put together on the best statistical seasons in recent memory as they score more runs, tallied more hits and RBI's then in any of the previous four seasons. Moreover the program got a big monkey off its back by breaking a losing streak that stretched back to the early 2000's.
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"There is no question the program took a step forward last season," Mark said. "While we still have a ways to go until we reached our full potential I like the direction we are headed in."
A key stalwart in helping that cause will be Albie Lavin. The lone four-year starter on the squad has shifted between third base, shortstop and pitcher. The native of Westerville, OH was among the team leaders in all major offensive categories last season. Lavin has been the ironman of the squad as he played in 96 games since donning a Beaver uniform in 2011.
Fellow senior Thomas Kwok returns to man the outfield after his first collegiate season last year. During his first year of baseball, Kwok started in 21 of the 25 games he played in as he tallied a .231 batting average and had the best fielding percentage on the team (.976).
"For different reasons, the seniors are going to play a large role. Albie is going to be the catalyst for a lot of what we do this season. He will be the team leader this year both on and off the field," Mark said. "Thomas has come a long way since picking up the bat and glove a year ago. His attitude and work ethic will help drive this team to reaching their potential."
A trio of juniors round out the upperclassmen on the roster. Derek Kearney will, once again, be called up to take the ball as one of the team's top starting pitchers. He has made 18 starts and accumulated 105.1 innings of work in his two seasons with the squad. Kearney has struck out 54 batters. In addition to his prowess on the mound, Kearney started 22 games in the outfielder as he tallied 22 hits.
Ryan Casey has started all but one of the 58 games he has played-in. A steady presence in the outfield he has gotten on-base over a third of his plate appearances and has committed just four errors during his first two years with Caltech. Oliver Curtiss role with the squad is going to change this year. After spending his first two as a pitcher, the Hudson, OH native will move behind the plate as the team's primary catcher.
"In each of their unique ways the three juniors bring an energy to the team. I really look for Derek and Ryan to up their play this year. They are just scratching the edges of meeting their potential," Mark said. "Oliver has been such a 'team first' player. He will do just about anything to help this squad be the best it can be."
The final returning player is sophomore Daniel Chou. He was the team's pitching leader in appearances (13), starts (11) and innings (75.1) last season. He went the distance in five of his 11 starts. In addition to his pitching exploits he earned the starting nod in the outfield on 22 occasions. Chou's speed was put to good use as he led the team in stolen bases (nine).
"Daniel has a bull-dog mentality when he goes on the mound. He wants to be the guy out there in the pressure situations. You can't ask for much more than that," Mark said.
A host of first-year players round the roster. Coming from a wide range of backgrounds the new players will be called upon right to step-in and contribute.
Tim Menniger joins the team after being used primarily as pitcher at Chestnut Hill Academy (PA). A four-year starter, his high school days were highlighted by no-hitter he threw his junior year. Harrison Jacobs was a three-year starting outfielder for head coach Jim Baldwin at Catalina Foothill High School (AZ). John Galden will be called upon to contribute as a middle infielder and pitcher during his first season with Caltech.
"Tim, Harrison and John are going to be thrown in the fire, so to speak. They worked really hard during their fall workouts and they will adapt quickly to the collegiate game," Mark said.
A three-some of players join the baseball team after spending the fall season with the soccer program. Ashay Gore, Jared Reed and J.D. Feist are played significant role for head coach Rolo Uribe on the pitch. The trio are all athletic and possess a great deal of speed and if they can translate that to the baseball field they will be steady contributors.
Alex Place, who is also a diver, will take the field once the swimming and diving season is complete in late February. The native of Arlington, VA was a steady contributor at Yorktown High School.
"The four players who joined the team after finishing their fall or winter sports are going to play a role in our success this year," Mark said. "Each of them is a bit raw but they are athletic and that will help speed up their learning curve."