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UMBC Baseball Season Outlook: Retrievers Season Opener at Navy Cancelled
UMBC baseball head coach John Jancuska and the Retrievers open their 2009 season Thursday.
BALTIMORE--The UMBC baseball team's season opener at Navy has been cancelled with no makeup date scheduled due to poor field conditions from this week's snow storm. The Retrievers will open their 2009 season at home vs. Wagner in a doubleheader slated for a noon start.
2009 Season Outlook
The 2009 Retriever baseball team looks to build on the 2008 season, where UMBC had its most successful season since joining the America East, finishing third and making the conference tournament for the first time. With a pitching staff having the most depth it has had in years and the addition of some talented junior college transfers and freshman to the roster, head coach John Jancuska sees this year as another stepping stone towards the top of the conference.
The loss of Will Delawter, Joe Fowler and Scott Peddicord, who were all named to All-Conference teams in 2008, from a team that batted an outstanding .307 in 2008 is very visible, but Jancuska has seen through fall workouts that this year’s team has a chance to be very solid.
“They (Delawter, Fowler and Peddicord) are a huge loss,” said Jancuska, “but by the time conference play comes around, we should be a complete 1-9 team where we are getting quality at-bats throughout the lineup.”
Jancuska sees the good production that he got out of Tom Meaney, Shawn Retz and Wink Nolan last season to continue, while he sees Rich Conlon, Bryan Russo and Casey Medairy to make significant improvement in their development. Also, with Dustin Ferguson, who had a lot of success at the junior college level, coming in along with Max Himmelstein, Justin Lamborn and Brian Klukowicz, should help round out the lineup.
The Retrievers return four out of the six starting pitchers from last season, including junior left-hander Ed Bach, who was named to the America East All-Rookie Team in 2006.
“We’ve got some quality, experienced pitchers who return which will help us,” said Jancuska. “Our pitching depth in terms of numbers is most we’ve had in a long time.”
Sophomore right-handers Austin Drewyer and David DiVita and sophomore left-hander Travis Pearson all saw significant innings last year, while senior right-hander and captain Ryan Morse led the Retrievers with four saves and Jancuska sees all of them improving with another year under their belts.
A big return to the rotation will be sophomore right-hander Marty Zawacki, who redshirted last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Along with these six, the Retrievers also have a large incoming class to help round out the staff, highlighted by a junior college transfer right-hander, Kevin Clark, who was a key reliever for CCBC Catonsville.
Freshmen Steve Miller, Terrence Moore, Brian Klukowicz, Michael Pesci and Josh Dick along with junior Scott Wildesen have all shown Jancuska and the Retriever coaching staff through fall and early-season workouts that they will all contribute for the 2009 season.
Freshman left-hander Luke DiBlasi had off-season surgery and may be available by the end of the season, while senior transfer Andrew Germuth will looking for a medical redshirt after undergoing surgery.
Senior Dan Blewett, who led the Retrievers in strikeouts and innings pitched a year ago, is coming off surgery and could be available late in the season as UMBC pushes towards the conference tournament.
Behind the plate, Jancuska returns a three-year starter in senior Tom Meaney, who finished third on the team with a .974 fielding percentage while starting 46 games.
“What’s nice about Meaney is he’s a pretty good outfielder and he’s a switch-hitter so he gives us a lot of flexibility,” said Jancuska.
Jancuska returns three-fourths of the infield from a year ago and sees this being a major strength for the team.
Senior Shawn Retz returns to first base after batting .322 with 35 RBI, the most by a returning Retriever. Senior Brad Brainer and sophomore Rich Conlon will man the second base and shortstop positions for the second consecutive year, while junior college transfer Dustin Ferguson will be pushed by freshman Curtis Schickner for the majority of playing time at third base.
Freshman Justin Lamborn played well during the fall and should see time as a backup to the middle infield positions, while Dick, Klukowicz and Himmelstein could all see time at first base or DH.
Sophomore Sterling Sams had off-season surgery so he will not pitch for the Retrievers this season, but will be used primarily at first base or in the outfield or as a designated hitter.
The area where the Retrievers lost the most production was the outfield, where Joe Fowler was named to an All-Conference team three out of his four years and Scott Peddicord was named to the America East Second Team All-Conference team last year as well. However, Jancuska sees the return of a 50-game starter and two key reserves from last year and thinks the outfield will be just fine.
Senior Wink Nolan returns as the top Retriever in batting average (.328), runs scored (44) and slugging percentage (.515). Nolan, who earned America East Second Team All-Conference honors last year, started all 50 games for UMBC in 2008 and led the conference in doubles with 23.
Jancuska says Klukowicz, Sams and Meaney will also see time in the outfield, based on who is hitting well and who needs a day off.
The Final Word
With a number of returning starters on both the pitching staff and the batting lineup coming back to the team that finished third in the conference a year ago along with an influx of talent in all areas, UMBC has positioned itself well to make another run at the America East Conference Tournament and the championship title.
Jancuska sees the pitching the staff, even with the loss of the big three to the lineup, as being the key to this year.
“If our incoming pitchers can come in and play at a high level and combine them with our returning talent, then we should be real competitive on the mound,” said Jancuska. “Our depth will keep us in every game and with our offense that should give us a good chance to go back to the conference tournament.”