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PSU Baseball set to open season on Florida trip

            PLYMOUTH, N.H. – The Plymouth State University baseball team will head to Florida this weekend for its annual season opening road trip during the school’s official Spring Break.

            After traveling to Fort Myers for many years, Plymouth State will be more north this spring, playing in three locations in the Central Florida Invitational. The Panthers will play 10 games in seven days all together, including doubleheaders in Auburndale against Westfield State, Trinity College, and Washington & Jefferson, a twinbill in Vero Beach against the University of Chicago and one in Winter Haven against Bowdoin College.

            Plymouth State opens its 30-game New England slate with single games at Rivier College and Babson College on Tuesday and Wednesday, Mar. 30-31.  The Little East Conference opener is on tap for Saturday, Apr. 3, at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and the 13-game home schedule begins on Friday, Apr. 16, vs. Salem State College.

            The Little East Conference tournament returns to its old format this spring, with a six-team double-elimination tournament beginning Wednesday, May 12. The Little East Tournament champion receives an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament.

             Two LEC teams reached the NCAA Regionals last year and the top three teams from the LEC received bids into the NCAA Tournament in 2008, solidifying the Little East as one of the top Division III college baseball conferences in the country.

2010 PSU Baseball Outlook

Head Coach Dennis McManus             The Panthers welcome back 13 veterans from last year’s squad, but veteran head coach Dennis McManus, now in his 26th year in the Panther dugout, says this year’s team is very young and there are several unknowns going into the season.  There is just one senior on the 24-man roster, and including a couple of transfers, 19 of the 24 are in their first or second year with the Panthers.

            “We’re very young and very talented and I think we can be pretty good, but we also lack some experience,” said McManus (right).  “I hate using what we call the “P” word, but I think we have a lot of potential.  And I like the work ethic and the mental make-up of this team.”

            McManus says the Panthers should have an improved defense over recent years, and the offense should also be more successful.  They have several solid play-makers who can “do some things on the bases and make things happen,” according to the coach.

             After experimenting with a six-man pitching rotation last year, McManus says the Panthers will likely go with four starters this year.  The difference is due to the change in the format of the LEC Tournament.

            “There might be times this year when we need a fifth or sixth starter, and sometimes we might need only three,” said McManus.  “Last year everyone qualified for the LEC Tournament so we knew we were in, so every game of the regular season meant the same.  This year we’ll have to qualify for the tournament with our LEC record so the conference games are more important.”

            Junior Bryant Lausberg (Somersworth, N.H.) and sophomore Mike Cappiello (Westfield, N.J.) will be mainstays in the middle of the Panther line-up.  The left-handed hitting Lausberg, who is also one of the team’s top starting pitchers, batted .373 last season with 20 extra-base hits, while the lefty-hitting Cappiello batted .378 with 18 extra-base hits.  Lausberg will rotate between the outfield and designated hitter and Cappiello will hold down first base.

            Junior Grant Livingston (Niantic, Conn./Saint Bernard) is also a returning infield starter and possesses a solid glove at shortstop.  Sophomore Joe Eramo (Shirley, Mass./Worcester Academy) got some experience at second base last season but is being challenged for the job by freshman Steve Beard (Middleton, Mass./Masconomet Regional).  Fellow freshman Rew Wilson (Niantic, Conn./East Lyme) is penciled in to take over at third base, where he is one of the top hot corner men in recent memory, according to McManus.  Sophomore Marcus Joyce (Scituate, Mass.) is a suitable middle-infield reserve.

            Junior Matt Koban (Bradford, N.H./Kearsarge) will likely take over full time in center field after platooning the past two years.  Sophomore Justin Campo (Londonderry, N.H.) plays strong defense and has earned the starting job in right field, according the McManus, while the left field position is still open, with possibilities including senior Steve Picco (Marshfield, Mass.), junior Matt Malia (Waterford, Conn./New London), freshman Brendan Cosgrove (Merrimack, N.H.), and Lausberg. Picco can also fill in at third base.

            The Panthers have three catchers who will see playing time behind the plate, led by improved junior Dan Eagan (Norwich, Conn./Saint Bernard).  Freshman David Tammaro (Cheshire, Conn.) will also see action, as well as junior Anthony Vadalla (Medford, Mass.), who is finally healthy after missing some time last year.

            McManus has a pair of lefthanders at or near the top of the pitching rotation with Lausberg and junior John Andersch (Concord, N.H.).  Lausberg led the team in earned run average last season and Andersch topped the staff in strikeouts.  Sophomore right-handers Jonathan Bishop (Woburn, Mass.) and Joe Hudson (Greenfield, Mass.) and sophomore lefty Bobby Chatfield (Sharon, Conn./Housatonic Valley) will start games in Florida, looking to fill out the rotation for the New England games.  Junior Chris Bryant (Lebanon, N.H.) is back after a year off and could also be in the mix.

            Rew Wilson could also pitch for the Panthers, although he will probably work in relief.  The rest of the bullpen includes freshmen Kevin Allard (Reading, Mass.), Jon Whalen (Attleboro, Mass.) and Matt Llewelyn (Northfield, Mass./Pioneer Valley).

            McManus summarized the Panthers by pointing out that “we have made a conscientious effort to improve the personality and character of the team.  We parted ways with some upperclassmen to make room for some quality young kids, and I’m really impressed with their attitude and work ethic.  We have a solid group of freshmen, they just need experience.  I’ll be disappointed if we don’t play well, and I’m not as much worried about the outcomes.” 

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