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March 5, 2013

Plymouth State Baseball to open 2013 season

Panthers head to New York for weekend debut

            PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Opening Day for the Plymouth State University baseball team is approaching as the Panthers throw the first pitch of the 2013 season this weekend (Mar. 9-10) with four non-conference games in New York.

            After this weekend's trip to the Empire State that includes doubleheaders at SUNY Maritime on Saturday and City College of New York on Sunday, the Panthers will head to Fort Myers, Fla., for its annual trip during the school's official Spring Break from March 16-24. PSU will play 10 games in seven days, including doubleheaders against Lasell College, the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh (twice), Southern Vermont College, and Otterbein University.

   
   Head Coach Dennis McManus
   

            Plymouth State opens its 26-game New England slate at Babson College the last week of March, with the home opener at Panther Park slated for Mar. 28 vs. Rivier University. The Little East Conference opener is on tap for Saturday, Mar. 30, at Eastern Connecticut State University.

            The Little East Conference tournament is a six-team double-elimination tourney beginning Wednesday, May 8. The Little East Tournament champion receives an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament. PSU advanced to the championship game of the 2012 LEC Tournament.

2013 PSU Baseball Outlook

            The Panthers welcome back 15 veterans from last year's squad, which won seven of its last 10 games to finish 20-22 overall. PSU won three Little East Tournament games to reach the final, and head coach Dennis McManus, now in his 29th year in the Panther dugout, says he's hoping to carry the momentum into this season.

            "Our performance in the tournament was huge for our confidence," said McManus.  "The guys proved to themselves that they could play at that level.  We barely got in the tournament but came together and advanced all the way to the championship game.  People might have taken us a little lightly last year, but I don't think that's going to happen any more so we'll have to be ready."

            The Panthers lost their top two hitters and top three pitchers from last year to graduation, but McManus says this year's team will rely on more of a team effort. "We may have been a little top heavy last year, and relied too much on certain guys.  We're much more balanced up and down the line-up this year and on the pitching staff."

            PSU has returning players in the middle of the field that should give the Panthers a solid core. Senior Ryan McIntosh (Lincoln, N.H./Lin-Wood) is the top returning hitter (.305, 10 doubles, 28 RBI) and will handle second base while sophomore Paul Reny (South Portland, Maine) returns after taking over the starting shortstop position and showing promise as a freshman. Senior Dave Tammaro (Cheshire, Conn.) and junior Rob Madonna (Cranston, R.I./West) have been a solid tandem behind the plate and will handle the bulk of the work with the pitching staff.

            Seniors Brendan Cosgrove (Merrimack, N.H.) and Steve Beard (Middleton, Mass./Masconomet Regional) are returning veterans in center and left field, respectively.  They each have ability both offensively and defensively and will look to impact the line-up.  Junior Jeff Runnals (Wolfeboro, N.H./Kingswood) will handle right field when he's not pitching for the Panthers. Sophomore Justin Walsh (Goffstown, N.H./Bedford) will also see playing time in the outfield as well as catcher.

            The Panthers will have newcomers at the corner infield spots who will also contribute to the offense.  Junior Brandon Cox (Nashua, N.H./Nashua South), a transfer from Merrimack College, has taken over at third base while sophomore Dan Armstrong (Danville, N.H./Timberlane) and freshman Dave Hall (Groton, Conn./Fitch) have both shown pop at the plate and will be in the line-up at first base or designate hitter, according to McManus.  Armstrong could also see time behind the plate.

            Depth in the line-up will come from sophomore 1B Brian Thompson (Southington, Conn.), freshman IF/OF Jake Broom (New London, N.H./Kearsarge) and freshman catcher Ethan Sikoski (Tolland, Conn.).

            The Panther pitching staff will have a different look following the graduation of the top three starters, but McManus is confident with this year's group, particularly the bullpen, where several veterans are returning.

            "There's been a lot of competition for spots in the rotation," said McManus.  "As confident as we are about the potential of our starters, we're maybe more excited about our bullpen.  We have a lot of depth, and we have several guys who could give us one inning or give us five innings. It'll be exciting to see how the staff works itself out."

            Runnals and senior Rew Wilson (Niantic, Conn./East Lyme) are the top contenders for starting spots among the returnees.  Runnals was 3-0 with a 3.20 earned run average last year, while Wilson was 4-2 with a 4.79 ERA.  Sophomore Cody Gilchrist (Tyngsboro, Mass./Bishop Guertin) and sophomore transfer Josh Young (Somersworth, N.H./Somersworth/Southern NH Univ.) look like solid starters among the newcomers. McManus says he is looking to two more starters to emerge before the Florida trip, with senior Kevin Allard (Reading, Mass.) and sophomore Michael Welch (Westfield, Mass.) the top contenders.

            Junior Ryan Wakefield (Sanbornton, N.H./Winnisquam) and freshman Joe Marino (Averill Park, N.Y.) have been impressive as relievers in the preseason.  Wakefield struck out 22 batters in 16 innings last year.  Junior Tucker Regan (Niantic, Conn./Niantic), a former shortstop, will get a chance to prove himself, while junior Spencer Webb (Warwick, R.I./Pilgrim) and junior transfer Zach Cogswell (Allenstown, N.H./Pembroke Academy/NHTI) can be effective in short or long relief.

            McManus is confident in the bullpen depth and is comfortable giving the ball to senior Jon Whalen (Attleboro, Mass.), sophomore Robbie Greenleaf (Lee, N.H./Oyster River) or freshman Nick Siegel (Hollis, N.H./Hollis-Brookline).

            "Our preseason has gone real well, and I think we've got a chance to be a good team," said McManus.  "This is one of the hardest-working teams I've ever had.  The character and the chemistry of the team are good; the upperclassmen are leading by example and the younger guys are following in the system."

            McManus says the Little East continues to be one of the top Division III conferences in the country, with the top LEC teams regularly competing on the national stage.

            "It's always a challenge for us because the Little East is so strong," said McManus. "I think we've gained a little bit of respect from the other teams with our performance in the tournament last year. Making the tournament again this year is our goal, and if things go well, we've shown we can play with the upper-echelon teams in our league."

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