Baltimore, Md.-- Head Coach Bob Mumma enters his eighth year at the helm of the Retrievers, just two years removed from the first America East championship in program history, looking to regain their place at the top of the league. The Retrievers will open the 2019 campaign in North Carolina with a weekend series against UNC Asheville this weekend as the march toward another conference title begins anew.
Coach Mumma will rely heavily on senior AJ Wright (Cherry Hill, N.J.) and juniors Stephen Schoch (Laurel, Md./Good Counsel/Appalachian State) and Christian Torres (Miami, Fla.) who return from a team that finished 22-29, 12-11 AE a year ago and were eliminated on the first day of the America East Tournament. Mumma knows that these three will be the key pieces to a run back to the NCAA Tournament in 2019.
"AJ (Wright) is a perennial all-conference performer and is going to be a key part of our infield as he has been the last three years," Mumma said of Wright. "Schoch may be the best closer not just in the conference, but the country and he will show that this year. Torres is returning off an injury at the end of last year and is healthy and ready to get back to the form he was when he won Rookie of the Year in 2017," Mumma said of the other two.
However, getting back to the top of the league standings will be no easy task. The conference has been one of the toughest in the country in recent years, with multiple teams winning 20+ games the past couple years. Having a conference that deep and talented means that the Retrievers will have no easy weekends this spring.
"Our league is always one of the best from top to bottom not just in mid-major ball, but in the country as a whole. Every team has a chance to win the league each year, which brings good competition every weekend series," Mumma stated. "Hartford and Stony Brook each bring back a lot of talented players from last year, but every team has players that can make a difference in this league. There is such thing as a guaranteed win," Mumma continued.
In addition to Torres, Wright and Schoch, the Retrievers will bring back Joey Goodwin (Rockville, Md./Good Counsel) who finished the year as the everyday starter at first. Goodwin batted .358 with 41 hits and 20 RBI in 35 games, earning a spot on the All-Rookie Team.
"We have a lot of key pieces returning with a ton of experience that will help us tremendously," Mumma said. "Most of the upperclassmen were on the team that won the title in 2017, so we will rely on that veteran presence throughout the year," he continued.
Max Goron (Laurel, Md./Reservoir) and Andy Rozylowicz (Annapolis, Md./DeMatha) will join Schoch as key returners on the pitching staff. Rozylowicz has been a staple out of the bullpen over the course of his career with Goron joining the weekend rotation toward the end of last year.
17 new faces will don the black and gold in 2019, as well as a handful of players who redshirted or sat out last year. One freshman that coach Mumma is keeping an eye on will be infielder Blaze O'Saben (Warrenton, Va.), who he thinks can come in and make an immediate impact.
"Blaze is a talented freshman who can come in and contribute right away. He has speed on the basepaths and can be in the running for Rookie of the Year," Mumma said of O'Saben.
Also looking to make an impact in the field will be graduate transfer Terrence Pinkston (La Plata, Md./McDonough/Norfolk State) who transfers from Norfolk State. Pinkston will compete for a spot in the outfield.
To help bolster the bullpen, coach Mumma will look to guys like Tanner Esposito (Williamsport, Pa.) and David Lyskawa (East Amherst, N.Y.) to add depth. Lyskawa sat out last year and Esposito is a freshman who has impressed in the fall.
The Retrievers will return all but two regular starters from last year's infield, Zack Bright and Matt Campbell who were both lost to graduation, but with the depth on the roster those spots will be filled with talented players . Two of those guys who can fill in right away is sophomore Andres Machado (Coral Gables, Fla.) and redshirt sophomore Jack FInn (Ellicott City, Md./Rider), and coach Mumma is excited for the experience the infield will have this year.
"We have a group that has a lot of experience playing together with our infield being basically the same the past few years," he said. "Machado is a talented shortstop and will fill in right away, and Jack Finn can be our everyday catcher after the hard work he has put in this offseason," he continued.
Reid Celata (Virginia Beach, Va.), Blaze O'Saben, Dmitri Floyd (Dover, Del.), Matt Shatto (Lancaster, Pa.), Colin Casey (Ipswich, Mass.), Reese Varley (Haymarket, Va.), and Brody Dupuis (Hooksett, N.H.) will also compete for time in the infield.
Just like the infield, the outfield will be a strong unit that only got better thanks to the addition of Pinkston, as well as Ryan Brown (Hagerstown, Md./St. James/Charleston Southern) and Ethan Gallagher (Catonsville, Md./Mount St. Joseph/Wake Forest) now being able to play after sitting out due to transfer rules last year. Add them with Raven Beeman (Somerset, Pa.), Joe Milkowski (Lackawanna, N.Y.) and Chris Convers (Poolesville, Md./Poolesville), and coach Mumma thinks he may have the best outfield unit in the conference.
"We will have a better outfield unit defensively then we did last year. They are a tight knit group that has tremendous speed and range," Mumma said.
The pitching staff will get a big boost from some newcomers and pitchers that did not compete a year ago. Once again, the staff will be led by the submarine throwing Stephen Schoch, who coach Mumma says only got better this summer.
"Stephen was able to get a full season in the Cape Cod League which is one of if not the best summer collegiate league in the country. He improved his stuff this summer after playing on the Cape, and we are excited to see what he can do against the best in the conference," Mumma said of Schoch.
Max Goron will return after a stellar freshman campaign that saw him earn a spot in the weekend rotation after starting the year in the bullpen. David Lyskawa will return after sitting out last year with injuries and will help bolster the rotation as a hard throwing lefty.
Newcomers Trey Shepard (Manassas, Va.), Luke Wootten (Middletown, Del.), Cooper Adams (Potomac, Md./St. John's College), Frank Fraschetti (New Castle, Pa.), Bryan Gilliam (Mechanicsville, Md./St. Mary's Ryken), Colton Bare (Sharpsburg, Md./Boonsboro) and Tanner Esposito will join returners Nick Trabacchi (Smithtown, N.Y.), Cameron Taylor (Leesburg, Va.), Greg Albert (Medford, N.J.) and Nick Cataldi (Warminster, Pa.) on the Retriever pitching staff.
Outlook on Schedule:
The Retrievers will open the season with a pair of road series that will both challenge and help prepare the team for the conference season. The trip to Miami in the beginning of the season is one that coach Mumma is excited for the team to have, especially for two players in particular.
"Going down to Miami will be a fun and exciting trip for our guys, especially Torres and Machado. It will be good for their families and friends to see them play in person," he said of the trip south.
Beyond that, the early portion of the season, as well as the tough midweek schedule, will help prepare the Dawgs for what is to come in conference.
"Our league is not that far off from some of the teams we will be playing early on. These early games will help instill confidence for conference play, and the midweek games will challenge us with some of the top teams locally and provide a chance to rest guys and get other guys some opportunities," Mumma said.
Coach Mumma believes this is a group that will surprise a lot of people, and the closeness this group has is a good reason why good things will happen in Charm City this year.
"There is a unity and closeness that this group has that we haven't had in past years. They are a tight knit, good group who will handle adversity and face it head on. I am excited to see this group finally get out on the field and get things rolling," Mumma said.