The Husson University baseball team had a memorable season last spring.
The Eagles set a school record for wins by going 33-14; they won their first North Atlantic Conference title after being runners-up for six straight years and earned their first NCAA Division III Tournament appearance where they went a respectable 2-2 and finished fourth.
There are plenty of familiar names returning and the lack of snow has enabled third-year coach Jason Harvey to get his team out on their Field-Turf surface at the Winkin Complex.
“We’ve been outside for three weeks. We’ve been taking advantage of the good weather,” said Harvey. “This is the earliest we’ve ever been out. Usually, the first time we take ground balls [outside] is our first day down south [on their spring trip].
“We’ve been able to do the things we need to do defensively. We’ve had live situations in the infield. And we were able to have fielding drills for the pitchers,” he added.
“We want our infielders to be able to make routine plays [consistently] and not give teams extra outs,” said Harvey.
Harvey said the only snow remaining is in left and left center field.
Harvey, whose wife, Kristin (Pelletier) gave birth to their first child (Jacoby) nearly four months ago, said he is “pretty optimistic” about the season.
“We’ve got a good group coming back. The sophomore and junior classes are very talented. They mesh well with the three seniors we have and our good freshman class,” said the 26-year-old Harvey.
“We’re a lot deeper this year in all positions,” added Harvey.
Husson will have to replace catcher and NAC Player of the Year Nick Arthers (.416-11 homers-67 runs batted in), right fielder Jeff Miller (.276-4-34), designated hitter Dennis Graham (.293-3-35) and All-NAC second team pitcher Chris Pease (6-2, 4.18 earned run average).
But they have players ready to fill the voids.
They return three All-NAC first teamers in junior shortstop Ethan Guerrette (.330-0-34, 26 stolen bases), junior first baseman Chris Maguire (.307-1-33) and sophomore righthander Nate Adams (7-2, 3.26) along with NAC Rookie of the Year Kyle Vanidestine (.312-2-26, 22 stolen bases), the Eagles’ left fielder.
Adams will be joined in the starting rotation by junior righthanders Ryan Arsenault (6-3, 3.96) and Kyle Leeman (4-2, 6.28) and senior righty Chris Morris (5-3, 4.18).
“I’m confident they can do the job,” said Harvey who added that the fifth and sixth starting spots are up for grabs with freshman Bill Doherty and juniors Bill Bart and Ryan Walker (2-0, 7.11) being prime candidates.
Harvey said he will build the bullpen around junior righty Dan Beatham (1-1, 2 saves, 8.39 ERA).
Joining Maguire and Guerrette in the infield will be either senior Corey Cushing (.250-0-5) or sophomore Cody Haverly-Johndro (.223-0-10) at second base and sophomore Jake Arthers (.284-1-18) at third base.
Vanidestine will be accompanied in the outfield by junior center fielder Tom Crews (.286-4-28, 11 stolen bases) and either Shawn Smith or Chase Daniels in right. Both are freshmen.
“They can all run and track the ball down,” said Harvey.
Senior Tom Briand-Evans (5-for-9) and newcomers Andy Bush and Kevin Rennick will battle for the catching job with sophomore Jason Smith (2-for-12) and Matt Archetti (3-for-28) vying for the DH job.
“We’re going to be pretty exciting to watch, offensively,” said Harvey. “We have five or six guys who can steal bases. We went 96-for-102 in stolen bases last year. We won’t rely on the long ball but we have some very good gap-to-gap hitters.”
The Eagles will begin a challenging spring trip in Winter Haven, Fla. on March 7.
“We’ll be playing four teams down there that won at least 30 games last year,” said Harvey.