Pride Baseball Looks to Build off of Strong 2017 Campaign
The Springfield College baseball team produced a much better season last year than their record showed for. Having gone through a stretch in which they played 17 conference games in 19 days, their 15-14 record does not seem too bad given the factors. Statistically, there were several players who performed at extremely high levels.
Looking at traditional stats, Springfield ranked third in the conference for team batting average (.301). Their on base percentage (.367) was just a couple ticks under the league average (.371), but still very respectable. A collective .773 OPS deviated only slightly from the NEWMAC average (.786).
Going deeper into sabermetrics, their Batting Average on Balls In Play (.356) was only behind WPI for best in the league. On the other hand, the Pride was not the most powerful hitting group, and it shows with their .105 Isolated Power Rating, good for second worst in the league. However, it is difficult to have a team that can hit for both a high average and the same amount of power, so this should not be a concern.
The pitching staff posted an above average ERA at 4.93. Their Walks and Hits per Innings Pitched (WHIP) rate (1.62) was just below the league average at 1.57. One stellar statistic that was extremely important to pitching success was their 3.5 walks per nine innings, ranking second in that category.
This season will feature a team that is considerably deep in terms of talent. Seasoned veterans as well as freshmen that are well above the developmental ladder will be taking the field for the Pride.
“I think we’ve got a good combination of younger players and some veteran players that make me very optimistic for the upcoming season,” said head coach Mark Simeone.
Some freshmen may even see some playing time from the start.
“I think there is going to be some that could contribute right away. I do believe we have some freshmen that have the ability to compete for some everyday positions, as well as contributors on the mound,” said Simeone.
The depth factor is something that will be something that can make or break the team.
”Our season will be a direct reflection on how we handle our depth. When you’re all together and supporting each other, depth can be an asset. When you don’t have depth the right way, depth can be pollution,” said Simeone
Player to Watch
Senior captain Mark Joao will arguably have the most anticipated season this year for the Pride. He put together a spectacular 2017 season, hitting almost .390 and driving in a team-high 27 runs.
“Honestly, I could not tell you how that happened last year,” said Joao, chuckling. “Especially coming off an ACL injury.”
He was one of the most powerful hitters on the team (.156 ISO), and had an OPS of over .980. If he could cut his strikeout rate (20 percent) down five percent, he will be an elite hitter this season and may even crack the .400 mark.
As Joao gears up for his final season in the maroon and white, he is eager for the opportunity to go out as a champion.
“Coming in as a freshman, we were not the greatest, and we have taken a couple of steps forward each year. Now, I think it is time for us to take that leap and really compete in the conference.”
Even if winning means a dip in his stat line, he will still retain a team-first mindset.
“I just want to do the best that I can for the team. I want to go out and win.”
Expect the senior infielder to be the cornerstone of Springfield’s offensive success. Now two years removed from the ACL injury, Joao definitely has the potential to be even better than his ’17 campaign.
In order for the Pride to be successful this season, it is imperative that they play to their strengths. Depth is a strength that not many teams can say they have, especially in the pitching department. The team needs to use this to their advantage, as it will play a huge role in late game situations as well as postseason time.
Hitting is another strength this team boasts. Maybe not hitting for power, but hitting for average will be a huge factor to their success. Strikeouts must be scarce, and walks should be plentiful. The team’s 17 percent strikeout rate, which is bottom level in the conference, needs to change. Again, putting the ball in play results in positive outcomes, which is shown in Springfield’s elite BABIP.
As for pitching, Johnson and Babineau need some support this season. The team cannot afford to have just a couple of dominant pitchers. A deep postseason run starts with an abundance of productive pitchers.
If the incoming class of freshmen can produce even at an average level, this team will turn from good to great. Having the luxury of trusting the underclassmen in high leverage situations is always advantageous to any coach. Plus, Simeone will have a plethora of ways to rotate his guys, another luxury that comes with overachieving freshmen.
All of these things will result in a significantly better season for the Pride and will make them a huge force in the conference. It may be the year that they raise a NEWMAC championship and punch their ticket to the NCAA tournament.
Jack Margaros can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org