PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University baseball season hopes to get the season underway this Saturday when the team travels to New York City to take on Baruch College (11:00 a.m.)
The Panthers will also head to Florida the following weekend to participate in the annual Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic in Fort Myers, Fla. PSU will play 10 games in six days in the Sunshine State before returning home for a 28-game slate back in New England.
Plymouth State will have 14 games in one of the toughest conferences in the country - the Little East Conference, featuring perennial powers Eastern Connecticut and Southern Maine. PSU's Little East opener is Saturday, Apr. 1, at UMass Dartmouth, and the first home game at Panther Park is targeted for Sun., Apr. 2, against Saint Joseph's College (Maine).
The regular season wraps up on May 6th, with the annual LEC
Tournament the following week. The Little East Tournament champion
receives an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Baseball
Plymouth State is looking to rebound from a couple of disappointing seasons. The Panthers, led by 22-year veteran coach Dennis McManus (right), have 13 returning veterans and a strong group of newcomers for what McManus hopes will be a turnaround campaign.
2006 PSU Baseball Outlook
"There's a new energy on this team," says McManus. "We have a lot of new faces that could have an impact right away, and they should be intertwined with some veteran experience. We think we have a pretty good team this year."
PSU hopes to have an improved pitching staff in 2006.
"There's no secret that our weakness the past couple of years has been pitching," says McManus, "but I'm most excited about this year's pitching prospects. We have four guys back from last year, including our top two starters, and a solid group of new guys."
The two veterans that should stabilize the rotation are sophomores Chip Hale (Londonderry, N.H.) and Jim VanGyzen (Foster, R.I./Ponaganset). Both took some lumps during their freshman campaign, but both also showed signs of excellence, and McManus is comfortable with them at the top of the rotation. Sophomore Justin Flanagan (Hingham, Mass) and freshmen Taylor Ketchum (Fairhaven, Mass.) and Jay Kleponis (Reading, Mass.) have shown a lot of promise in preseason, and will likely fill out the rotation.
Junior Tim Conway (Bedford, N.H./ West) and sophomore Ryan Lavelle (Middleboro, Mass.) give the Panthers a pair of veterans in the bullpen, although either could also start. Sophomore Josh Labossiere (Lincoln, R.I.) and freshmen Nick Jowders (Wilton, N.H.), Joe Brayton (Medfield, Mass.) and Chris Welch (South Burlington, Vt.) all have solid arms and should contribute.
PSU's starting outfield should also be the heart of the batting order. Senior LF and co-captain C.J. Rousseau (Merrimack, N.H.) returns after performing as one of the team's leading hitters last season. Senior CF Scott Begalle (Rumney, N.H./Plymouth) adds a lot of pop to the lineup if he can stay healthy, and junior RF Steve Campo (Londonderry, N.H.) had a breakout season last year.
There could be some new faces in the Panther infield. Labossiere is challenging two returning veterans at first base - senior Adam Kobeski (Walpole, N.H./Fall Mountain) and junior Jamie Aceto (Cumberland, R.I.). Two newcomers have been impressive at third base - junior Zach Nolda (East Lyme, Conn.) and Kleponis, as they battle with sophomore Doug Urquhart (North Andover, Mass.), who saw time at the hot corner last spring.
Junior co-captain Dylan Mullin (Derry, N.H./Pinkerton) has a strong glove and should handle duties at shortstop. He also showed improved pop with the bat in the fall. Freshman Josh Roberti (Cranston, R.I.) is a smooth-fielding freshman who is looking to take over at second base, and classmate Brayton can back up at both middle infield positions. Freshman Griffin Lafleur (Nantucket, Mass.) will also help out as a utilityman, both in the infield and outfield.
McManus is comfortable with the platoon situation behind the plate as sophomores Brandon Hodge (Bradford, Vt./Oxbow) and co-captain John Pogorzelski (Hillsborough, N.J.) both return after respectable rookie campaigns, and freshman Marc McGinnis (Hanover, Mass.) provides a solid backup.
"This has been one of the best pre-seasons in years," says McManus. "The worth ethic and teamwork have been excellent. The kids really seem to be serious. If we can get off to a good start, play solid baseball, and qualify for the LEC Tournament, we'll see where we can go from there."
-- 30 --