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Plymouth State Baseball to open 2012 season

Panthers head to New York for weekend to make debut

            PLYMOUTH, N.H. – The Plymouth State University baseball team will throw the first pitch of the 2012 season this weekend (Mar. 10-11) with four non-conference games in New York City.

            After this weekend's trip to the Empire State that includes doubleheaders at SUNY Maritime and City College of New York, the Panthers will head to Fort Myers, Fla., for its annual trip during the school's official Spring Break from March 17-25. PSU will play 10 games in seven days, including doubleheaders against SUNY Oneonta, Knox College (Ill.), SUNY New Paltz, Wooster (Ohio) and Colby College.

   
  Head Coach Dennis McManus
   

            Plymouth State opens its 26-game New England slate with the Little East Conference opener on Saturday, Mar. 31, at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.  The 11-game home schedule at Panther Park is slated to begin on Friday, Apr. 6, vs. Rivier College.

            The Little East Conference tournament is a six-team double-elimination tourney beginning Wednesday, May 9. The Little East Tournament champion receives an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament.

             At least two LEC teams have reached the NCAA Regionals the past four seasons, and the top three from the LEC received bids into the NCAAs in 2008, solidifying the Little East as one of the nation's top Division III baseball conferences. The 2010 LEC champion, UMass Boston, won the New England Regional and advanced to the NCAA Division III College World Series.

2012 PSU Baseball Outlook

            The Panthers welcome back 19 veterans from last year's squad, and head coach Dennis McManus, now in his 28th year in the Panther dugout, says that for the first time in many years, most of the positions are set heading into the season.

            "We already have a starting line-up and we're going to stick with it," said McManus.  "Most of it is a carryover from last year.  It took us about a half season last year to establish our identity, but now we already have it.  The attitude is better, the character is better, and we're a more balanced team."

            PSU returns the majority of players who saw significant playing time last season, with the exception of Bryant Lausberg, who is now an assistant coach.

            "We also kept a few more pitchers this year than we generally would, and fewer position players," said McManus.  "We usually need an extra arm in the bullpen more than we need an extra outfielder or infielder."

            Plymouth State has four of the five .300 hitters back from last year, led by seniors Luke Merrill and Mike Cappiello.  Merrill smacked 13 doubles and four home runs en route to a team-leading .360 batting average last season, while Cappiello is a career .367 hitter with 32 doubles, nine home runs and 85 runs batted in.  Merrill will likely DH while Cappiello holds down first base.

            Junior 2B Ryan McIntosh joins Cappiello as a returning starter on the right side of the infield.  McIntosh batted .305 with a team-leading 15 doubles last season.  The left side of the Panther infield will likely see sophomore Tucker Regan at shortstop and junior Rew Wilson at third base.

            Both Panther catchers who saw the majority of playing time last season, sophomore Rob Madonna and junior David Tammaro, are back and ready to compliment the Panther pitching staff.  Madonna can also fill in at third base.

            Junior Steve Beard and sophomore Jeff Runnals, who were part-time starters a year ago, look to take over as full-time starters at the corner outfield positions.  Freshman Paul Reny has been impressive in preseason and looks primed to take over the starting center field spot.

            McManus has several options when it comes to the pitching staff, but seniors Bobby Chatfield and Jonathan Bishop will no doubt be in the mix.  Both are four-year veterans and will be counted on for the Panthers.  Junior Ryan Wakefield has shown improvement and will get a chance to start, and Wilson, who has been a closer in the past, may move into the rotation.  Other pitching candidates aiming for a starting job include junior Kevin Allard, freshmen Michael Welch and Robbie Greenleaf, and senior Joe Hudson.

            Sophomore Spencer Webb and Runnals will start out as late-inning setup men in the bullpen, with Merrill coming on as a closer.

            "As is often the case, we should be able to play offense and defense with anybody," said McManus.  "Pitching is always the question mark.  If we can get good pitching, we have a good chance of getting into the LEC Tournament or even better."

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