Senior Austin Drewyer
Senior co-captain Rick Phillips
Senior co-captain Rich Conlon
BALTIMORE—The UMBC baseball team kicks off the 2011 campaign Tuesday against Delware (2-5). First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. at the Baseball Factory Field. Live stats are available for the game at, while you can also get game updates by following UMBC Athletics on Twitter.
The 2011 UMBC baseball team returns eight members of its starting lineup from a year ago as it looks to put two tough seasons in the past. Head coach John Jancuska sees this as being a key to propelling the team back to the America East Championships.
“Our lineup could be very good in our league,” the coach said. “Very few freshmen can come in and excel due to the big difference in ability between high school and Division I ball, so the fact that the majority of our lineup has gone through the adjustment period and bring experience this year is a major positive.”
Senior co-captain Rick Phillips returns as the incumbent behind the plate for the Retrievers after throwing out 18 would-be base stealers while only committing four errors a year ago.
“Rick is one of the better receivers we’ve had here in a long time,” Jancuska said.
Backing up Phillips will be sophomore transfer Jason Allinderfrom Chesapeake Community College and freshman Rob McCabe, who was selected to the Pennsylvania All-East team in 2008 and 2009.
Junior Max Himmelstein made the transition from catcher to first base last season and improved at the plate after an impressive freshman campaign. He hit career highs in batting average (.316), home runs (4), RBI (27) and hits (49), all of which ranked first or second on the team.
“Max has improved his athleticism and is now comfortable over at first,” Jancuska said. “We look for him to continue to improve at the plate, both in average and in power.”
Himmelstein will share the first base duties with redshirt freshman D.J. Ream, a powerful left-hander who missed last year due to shoulder surgery.
Senior Dustin Ferguson, who returns after missing the 2010 campaign with an injury, slides from third to second base, while senior co-captain Rich Conlon and junior Curtis Schickner will once again man the left side of the infield at shortstop and third base, respectively.
Ferguson started 23 games in 2009, while Conlon has started 119 games through three years at UMBC, hitting .250 with 48 RBI in his career
“With all the experience he brings in, we’re looking for Rich to have a breakout year,” Jancuska said.
Schickner led the Retrievers in batting for the first half of the season, hitting over .350 before a nagging wrist injury hampered his ability throughout conference play.
“Curtis got a taste of performing at a very high level,” Jancuska said. “We’re excited at the prospects of seeing what he can do when healthy throughout the season.”
Freshman Bryan Perlmutter will back up Ferguson and Conlon in the middle infield, while Conlon can also play at third.
Junior Brian Klukowicz was named the team’s Most Improved Player last season and will continue to fine-tune his trade in right field. He had a breakout year in 2010, leading the team with four home runs and was second with a .286 average.
“We’re looking for Brian to continue to work hard and see him turn into a .300-plus hitter this season,” the coach said.
Senior Casey Medairy, who stroked career highs in batting average (.277) and RBI (14) last season, along with his first two career home runs, will start the season in center, while seniorBryan Russo, junior Michael Pesci and McCabe will all compete to see action in left.
Russo hit four home runs and led the team with 28 RBI a year ago, while Pesci was a dual-threat at the plate and on the mound, splitting 40 starts between the outfield and designated hitter while making 10 appearances on the hill.
Freshmen Kevin Kean, D.J. Smith and Chris Crawford will provide valuable depth in the outfield that was lacking a year ago. Junior transfer Tom Gilchrist will miss the year due to injury, but should compete for action next season.
After losing three weekend starting pitchers to graduation, Jancuska knows one truth going into the 2011 campaign – senior Austin Drewyer, the lone weekend starting pitcher returning, will lead the staff this year.
“Austin is an outstanding leader,” the coach said. “He had a good fall and has been looking great so far this spring.”
Sophomore transfer Mike Mitchell, who excelled at Frederick Community College earning Second-Team NJCAA All-American honors, will slide in behind Drewyer in the rotation, while sophomore Steve Miller and freshmen Jon Cohn and Shane Vlasic will compete for the other starting jobs.
In relief, sophomore Sam Bashioum showed sparks of greatness in 2010, recording 23 strikeouts in 31.2 innings of work.
“Sam has an outstanding curveball and change-up that are effective in keeping batters guessing,” Jancuska said.
Junior transfer Matt Siggins, who was Mitchell’s at FCC, is a side-arm right-hander who will anchor the staff as the closer.
Jancuska says the first month will determine what roles senior Travis Pearson, juniors Luke DiBlasi, Josh Dick and Sean Swetnam and Allinder will see once America East play begins.
“We know our staff has the ability to play at a high level and the first month will determine who gives us the best chance to succeed in conference play,” the coach said.
The Final Word
Jancuska sees this year as a good opportunity to get back to the four-team America East Championships for the first time since 2008 on the back of an experienced lineup.
“With the new (NCAA-regulated) bats this year, you’ll see a decrease in home runs and extra-base hits across the board, so having true team power and team speed will be the key this year,” he said. “And this year, I believe we have both.”