Baltimore, Md.—UMBC baseball will open the 2015 season at North Carolina A&T for a three game set Feb. 20-22. This year, coach Bob Mumma says his team will compete for the top spot in a very deep America East. Last year's champions, Binghamton University, will look to repeat but will have tough competition in Stony Brook and Hartford.
The 2015 UMBC baseball team is looking to improve on their 17-29, 7-17 AE record from a year ago. The feeling around campus is that the team is hungry and ready to prove themselves to the America East. Coach Bob Mumma will enter his fourth year at his alma mater and has high praises for this year's team. "We have good leadership that includes our strong upperclassmen."
The Retrievers will return a strong core of players, and will bring in some key transfers and freshman that will help UMBC return to the top of the America East. This year the Retriever schedule will feature 55 contests, including 26 home games.
Last season the Retrievers finished with a .243 batting average as a team, slugging just .319. UMBC was led by Hunter Dolshun (Warwick, N.Y./Warwick) who hit a team best .304, while also leading the squad in OBP (.400) and slugging percentage (.422). Jake Barnes (Annandale, Va./Annandale) led the team knocking in 27 RBI's while also swiping 11 bases.
On the mound, UMBC will return a lot of experience from the 2014 season. Junior Joe Vanderplas (Fairfax, Va./Fairfax/Tennessee) had the best ERA on the team from a year ago. Vandy had a 3.34 ERA in 11 starts striking out 28 while only giving up nine walks. Also returning to the mound will be seniors Shane Vlasic (Ashburn, Va./Broad Run) and Jonny Dierks (Easton, Md./Indepenence/Fort Scott CC), along with junior Denis Mikush (Burke, Va./Robinson). Vlasic had the most wins on the team with four last year, while Dierks appeared in 16 games. Mikush had 33 strikeouts, the most of any Retriever.
Coach Mumma is very confident in his team, especially his pitching staff. The Retrievers will return four of their top pitchers from a year ago in Vanderplas, Vlasic, Dierks, and Mikush.
"Vandy has a chance to be all-conference this year," Mumma said about his hurler. Vanderplas finished with one of the top ERA's in the conference last year at 3.34. He finished ninth in the league in least amount of runs given up with 29.
"Vlasic is an outstanding starter, and will take the role of weekend reliever for us this year," said Mumma. In addition to the big four, UMBC will have junior college transfer Conrad Wozniak (Cypress, Texas/Cypress/Frank Phillip College). At Frank Phillip, he led the Western Junior College Athletic Conference (WJCAC) in wins and saves in 2013. This past year he was named WJCAC First Team All-Conference Pitcher. He also helped lead the Plainsmen to their first ever post season playoff appearances his two seasons there. Kevin Little (Weldon, Calif./Kern Valley/Taft College) will also be in the weekend rotation for the Retrievers.
"Our pitching staff will be 8-10 deep this year, and are primed to excel," Mumma stated.
"Our strength will be in the defensive infield this year. Our infield has a year together, and that cohesiveness will help bring us to the next level," Coach Mumma said about his infielders.
UMBC brings back seven infielders who saw major playing time a year ago. This group is led by seniors Vince Corbi (Medford, N.J./Shawnee) and Mark Esposito (Bethany, Conn./Amity Regional). Juniors Kevin Lachance (Clifton, Va./Centreville) and Anthony Gatto (Hauppauge, N.Y./Smithtown West) will also look to contribute again this year, while sophomore Hunter Dolshun (Warwick, N.Y./Warwick) will try to have the same success from a year ago.
Corbi hit .230 in 174 at bats, knocking in 19 runs and swiping ten bases. Fellow senior Mark Esposito had the second best batting average on the team, hitting .303. Mark had 18 RBI's, smacking one home run a year ago.
Kevin Lachance has been solid for the Retrievers in his two years in Baltimore. Kevin hit .256 with eight doubles in team high 180 at bats, while also stealing a team high 12 bases.
Hunter Dolshun returns from his stellar rookie campaign, where he earned America East All-Rookie team honors, along with teammate Andrew Casali (New Canaan, Conn./New Canaan). Dolshun led the team with a .304 batting average, while driving in 22 runs. Hunter blasted seven doubles and three home runs for the Retrievers in 2014.
Andew Casali will lead the outfield that has speed to burn. Casali hit .264 off a team best 47 hits. He filled the stat line hitting seven doubles, one triple and one homer, driving in 15 runs.
In addition to Casali; Jake Barnes (Annandale, Va./Annandale), Ryan Sliwak (Wantagh, N.Y./Wantagh/Nassau CC), and newcomer Brady Zinda (Woodbridge, Va./Hylton) will join a unit that can cover a lot of ground.
Barnes hit .262 for the Retrievers knocking in 27 runs while stealing 11 bases. Of his 44 hits, he hit 12 doubles, one triple and two dingers. Sliwak appeared in 24 games last year for UMBC, hitting .221 (15 for 68) two doubles and two triples.
Zinda comes to Baltimore from Woodbridge, Va., where he excelled at Hylton High School. He was named First-Team All-District his junior and senior seasons at Hylton. As a senior, he was placed on the First-Team All-Region, All-State, and All-Metropolitan Outfield teams while helping lead his team to a fourth place finish in the 2012 Virginia State Tournament.
This year the America East will be spearheaded by three teams that made a splash a year ago. Stony Brook won the regular season title with a 35-18, 18-5 AE record. Just behind them was Hartford who went 31-23, 16-7 AE. Binghamton took home the conference championship after dropping their opening game in the America East Playoffs. The Bearcats rallied to defeat Maine, Hartford, and Stony Brook twice to capture the crown at LaLacheur Park in Lowell, Mass.
This year the Retrievers look to be in the mix after going 17-29, 7-17 AE a year ago. "Our conference is historically good," Mumma said about the America East. "Every team is well coached and you have to play well each day to come out with a win."
Mumma would go on to say, "Stony Brook, Maine and Binghamton will be the top dogs this year, but there is plenty of strength from top to bottom. Every conference weekend will be a battle."
"We expect to be at least at a .500 mark or better, and finish in the top four of the America East," coach Mumma said about his 2015 squad. "We have great leadership with our upperclassmen. Everyone on this team is very competitive and are very confident in their skills and abilities." Mumma would continue.
The Retrievers will have a challenging schedule in 2015, but coach Mumma believes this team can not only have a winning record, but compete for the America East Championships. "We are excited about the conference schedule. We have a strong league and our opening tournament at Coastal Carolina will be exciting," Mumma said. "We can and will win if we play well and stay healthy."
UMBC opens the year against North Carolina A&T on Feb. 20-22. The three game set with the Aggies will take place in Greenboro, N.C. starting at 3:00 p.m.