By MICHAEL HARVEY
The University of Mary Washington baseball team began its 2012 season this past Sunday, Feb. 5, falling to Hampden-Sydney College 4-2.
The Eagles will look to bounce back this Sunday when they take on Christopher Newport University, and they ultimately hope to return to their 2010 form in which they were Capital Athletic Conference champions and finished third in the South Regional of the NCAA Tournament.
The Eagles have an experienced squad, led by eight seniors, which should help UMW’s chances to repeat atop the conference.
Sophomore pitcher Nick McGovern believes the leadership of those seniors could become the difference in a couple games this season.
“Our team has great leadership and that should help us tough-out some close games,” McGovern said.
McGovern also believes the Eagles’ defense will be crucial for a successful year. “Our pitching staff has a lot of depth and experience. That and our ability to play the field should be our best assets this year,” he said.
Last year, the Eagles posted a 3.86 team ERA while holding opponents to a .267 batting average. Those impressive numbers could be replicated if not improved this season with the return of juniors Michael Straub and Torey Mancari, who proved to be reliable pitchers for UMW last year.
Senior captain Santino Rosanova believes the success of the pitching staff will translate into victories and ultimately determine how far this team can go.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a pitching staff with as much talent; not since I’ve been here at least,” Rosanova said. “It is definitely going to be what will win us games.”
But it will still be necessary to get some offensive production if the Eagles wish to win their ninth CAC championship under head coach Tom Sheridan.
After losing two All-CAC first teamers in Jackson Clement and Eric Rehbein, the squad will rely on the bats of the seniors to provide much of their run support.
According to Rosanova, “the combination of pitching, hitting, and defense should be able to take us places.”
Those places, Rosanova and McGovern hope, will include the CAC Championship, the Regional Championship, and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Conference foe Salisbury University will again look to stymie the Eagles championship aspirations, as they have consistently challenged UMW over the years.
“Salisbury is always the toughest team to play,” Rosanova admitted. “Somehow, every year, they just put out a good team that is always tough to beat.”
The Eagles face Salisbury in a two game homestead on March 17 and 18, which could prove to be a decisive series in forecasting the top seed heading into the CAC tournament a month later.
But that crucial weekend series remains a ways off, and as for now the Eagles remain focused on their game against CNU this Saturday. The Captains went 39-7 last season, and are ranked as the No. 7 team in the country this year.