PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University baseball team is set for its annual spring trip to Florida, where it will open up the 2007 campaign with five doubleheaders in seven days in the annual Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic in Fort Myers.
The Panthers will meet Saint Lawrence University and Fredonia State (N.Y.) for twinbills on the first two days, Saturday-Sunday, March 17-18, and after a day off Monday, a pair against Kalamazoo College on Tuesday, March 20. PSU wraps up the trip with back-to-back doubleheaders Thursday and Friday, March 22-23, against New England Small College Athletic Conference schools Trinity College and Amherst College.
PSU opens its 30-game New England slate at Babson College on Wednesday, March 28, with the Little East Conference opener on tap for Saturday, March 31, at Eastern Connecticut State University. The home opener at Panther Park is scheduled for Thursday, April 12, vs. Rivier College.
A highlight of this year's schedule is a game vs. rival Keene State College on Friday, April 20, which will be played at MerchantsAuto.com Stadium in Manchester, N.H., as part of a doubleheader with the minor league New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
The regular season wraps up on May 5, with the top six teams advancing to the annual LEC Tournament the following week. The Little East Tournament champion receives an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Baseball Championship Tournament.
Plymouth State has 17 returning veterans and a strong group of newcomers for what 23-year veteran head coach Dennis McManus (right) hopes will be a winning campaign.
2007 PSU Baseball Outlook
The Panthers have improved their win total the last two seasons, and McManus thinks this year's squad should continue that trend.
"We kind of bottomed out a couple years ago, but we've made steady progress the past couple years. We should be much stronger this season both offensive and defensively; we've got strong kids at each position, veterans with some skill, and they're working hard and looking good this spring. As always, pitching will be our question mark. We have some young kids who pitched a lot of innings last year, and gained some valuable experience. They've come back in great shape this spring, and will get the opportunity to prove themselves."
Senior outfielders Josh Labossiere (Lincoln, R.I.) and Steve Campo (Londonderry, N.H.) should lead the Panther offense. Labossiere, who moves to center field after playing first base most of last season, led the team with a .338 batting average and 19 extra-base hits (6 doubles, 7 triples, 6 home runs) in 39 games. Campo, who moves from right to left field, hit a solid .328 last season, and the duo shared the team RBI lead with 25 apiece. They will be flanked in right field by either sophomore Marc McGinnis (Hanover, Mass.) or junior newcomer Adam White (Somersworth, N.H.)
Senior SS Dylan Mullin (Derry, N.H./Pinkerton) and sophomore 2B Josh Roberti (Cranston, R.I.) will hold down the middle infield positions, with freshman Jared LeClaire (Portsmouth, N.H./Winnacunnet) pushing for playing time and providing a suitable backup. Senior Craig Carpenter (Holderness, N.H./Nashua), a transfer from UMass Lowell, will be in the lineup, either sharing first base with senior Jamie Aceto (Cumberland, R.I.), as the designated hitter, or even as a back-up catcher. Sophomore Jay Kleponis (Reading, Mass.) and freshman Steve Picco (Marshfield, Mass.) will both see playing time at third base.
McManus has several options behind the plate. Juniors Brandon Hodge (Bradford, Vt./Oxbow) and John Pogorzelski (Hillsborough, N.J.) both return after handling the job last year, with Carpenter also in the mix.
There are four underclassmen who are emerging as the top pitchers on the staff, according to McManus - junior Justin Flanagan (Hingham, Mass) and sophomores Taylor Ketchum (Fairhaven, Mass.), Joe Brayton (Medfield, Mass.) and Nick Jowders (Wilton, N.H.) Senior Tim Conway (Bedford, N.H./ West) and sophomore Adam Neshe (Framingham, Mass./Marian) are also contending for spots in the Panther rotation.
Junior Ryan Lavelle (Middleboro, Mass.) and sophomores Chris Welch (South Burlington, Vt.), Ryan Hannon (Bow, N.H.) and Nick Englert (North Woodstock, N.H./Lin-Wood) will likely hold down the Panther bullpen. Junior Chip Hale (Londonderry, N.H.), who led the staff with 60 strikeouts last season, will start the season in the bullpen after he returns from a preseason injury.
"If the pitching comes along the way it's been looking, we should be a much better team," said McManus. "I know we'll be better at the plate and in the field."
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