The Gettysburg College baseball team is poised to get off to a strong start with a veteran lineup and solid leadership corps aiming to get back to the postseason in 2020.
In 2019, the early portion of the schedule was wiped out due to weather and the Bullets went to Florida for spring break still trying to figure out the lineup. Injuries hit the team at inopportune times throughout the campaign and left it short of a playoff bid with a 17-20 overall record, including 5-13 in the Centennial Conference.
The lineup at the plate returns intact and a young pitching staff has grown after seeing a lot of innings a year ago. More consistency at the plate and on the mound with strong leadership from an experienced senior class should put Gettysburg back in contention for its first playoff run since 2017.
“We just didn’t get it done when we had the opportunity last season,” noted Head Coach John Campo, who enters his 34th season at the helm with 616 victories. “Offensively, we need to put the ball in play more. We’re looking for line drives and sharp ground balls. Our fielding percentage has to get better and we need to cut down on free passes on the mound. Those are all things we can control with the right approach.”
The team’s resolve is bolstered by a lineup that features 13 position players who started a game in the field last season. Among the pitching staff, six players return that logged at least 17 innings in 2019 with a number of others looking to make a significant leap from their debut seasons in orange and blue.
“I feel good about the team we can put on the field right now,” said Campo. “Obviously the big thing is staying healthy. We have great depth and when your best players are all available, you have a much better chance of winning and being successful.”
Campo will rely on three senior captains to help manage the team this season in Joe Giovinco (Stirling, N.J./Seton Hall Prep), Jack Havard (New Canaan, Conn./New Canaan), and Ryan LaCoe (Hershey, Pa./Hershey). Giovinco is sliding over to second base after manning shortstop for the first three seasons and he will contribute on the mound. Havard bounced back to appear in 11 games on the mound after missing all of 2018. LaCoe has been the team’s most versatile contributor in the lineup with starts across the infield and outfield and slides back into his starting role in center field.
“We’re out there to win and our goal is to make the conference playoffs,” said Campo. “That will give us a chance to win the conference title. We also want to have a solid overall winning record and if something happens in the playoffs and we don’t ultimately win the thing, then we might have a shot at the NCAA at-large bid.”
Starters return at first base and third base in sophomore Mark Seibert (Yardley, Pa./Holy Ghost Prep) and junior Matt Szczesny (Schwenksville, Pa./Perkiomen Valley). An early-season injury to Szczesny paved the way for Seibert to take up the glove at first and he responded by hitting .320 with 22 runs scored and 16 RBI. Seibert led the team with a .459 on-base percentage thanks to 13 walks and a program-record 19 hit-by-pitches in 2019.
Szczesny returned shortly after the spring break trip a year ago and assumed the starting role at the hot corner. He was solid defensively with only six errors and performed at the plate by hitting .330 with 17 RBI.
Backing up the two corners will be sophomores Brodey Cowan (Sarver, Pa./Freeport), Tommy Lieberman (Wellesley Hills, Mass./Wellesley) and freshman Dylan Galgano (Pennington, N.J./Hun School of Princeton) at first base and freshman Preston Toothman (Orlando, Fla./William R. Boone) at third base.
Giovinco has been the team’s primary shortstop since his first year, but he’s sliding over to second base with the addition of pitching duties in 2020. He was an all-conference selection in 2018 after hitting .349 and he posted a .286 average with a team-high 32 runs scored, nine doubles, three triples, and 17 RBI last season.
Taking over at shortstop will be sophomore Matt Muir (South Easton, Mass./Oliver Ames). Muir turned in a productive debut season, hitting .271 with 16 RBI and only striking out six times in 107 at bats. He should have no problem handling fielding duties at the new position after committing just six errors in 134 chances (.955 fielding percentage) at second base a season ago.
Newcomers will provide added depth in the middle infield behind the two returners. Freshmen Adam Zakaria (Lawrenceville, N.J./Lawrence), Jacob Morgan (Alexandria, Va./Episcopal), and Konrad Ehmke (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Pine Crest) are in the mix for playing time, as is sophomore MacLeod Farley (Flourtown, Pa./Springfield Township) who returns after missing all of last season with injury.
Sophomore Andrew Decker (Baltimore, Md./Towson) finished out his debut season with a flourish, hitting safely in 15 of his last 18 games and finishing as the team leader with a .336 batting average. He also scored 18 runs and drove in 15. Junior Collin Short (Chesterfield, Va./Benedictine College Prep) started five games and was productive with seven hits and six RBI in 2019. The Bullets will have ample depth with first-years Matthew Peipher (Lititz, Pa./Manheim Township), JR McCloskey (Huntington Station, N.Y./Chaminade), and Aaron Kirby (Sandy Hook, Conn./Saint Joseph) in reserve.
Gettysburg brings back a loaded outfield with plenty of experience and firepower. LaCoe missed the early part of last season recovering from injury, but when he returned he was his usual productive self with a .302 batting average, 25 runs, a team-high 10 doubles, and 20 RBI. The former transfer from IUP carries a career average of .320 and 39 RBI over 57 games with the Bullets.
In right field, junior Sean Murphy (Westfield, Mass./Westfield) returns as the team’s top run producer in the middle of the lineup. Last season, Murphy hit .336 with 25 runs scored and he led the team with 31 RBI and 65 total bases. He owns a career batting average of .333 and has plated 59 runs through 71 games.
Campo has plenty of viable options to fill the spot in left field or fill in for LaCoe and Murphy. Seniors Ryan Augustus (Freehold, N.J./Princeton Day School) and Dom Gasparro (Clarksburg, N.J./Princeton Day School) and sophomore Shane Manieri (Harleysville, Pa./La Salle College) all bring valuable experience in the outfield and potent bats in the lineup. Manieri appeared in 34 games and led the team with four home runs. He also scored 29 runs and drove in 19 RBI. Augustus hit .284 with 13 RBI over 23 games, while Gasparro filled voids in the infield and outfield over his 14 games played in 2019. Those three players will also contribute to the lineup as the designated hitter as the situation demands.
Junior Kobi Wolf (Westfield, N.J./Westfield) is another veteran challenging for time after missing nearly all of 2019 with injury. Freshmen Kyle Miller (Montclair, N.J./Montclair), Luke Kirby (Newtown, Conn./Saint Joseph), and Seth Sherman (Fredericksburg, Va./Riverbend) will contend for playing time in the outfield.
The staff lost a pair of starters in Jonny Bray ’19 and Will Wortmann ’19 and one of the top relievers in Sam Dobbins ’19 who combined for 96.1 innings and 36 appearances last season, but plenty of experience returns on the mound. Seven returning hurlers started a game a year ago.
Juniors Myles Burbank (Rye, N.Y./Rye) and Erik Wortmann (Garden City, N.Y./Garden City) lead the list of potential starters. Burbank limited Franklin & Marshall College to just two runs over eight innings on the way to a win last season and finished with a team-high eight games started. Wortmann paced the squad with four wins and punctuated the campaign by twirling a complete-game against Juniata College. Havard and senior John Braun (Ambler, Pa./La Salle College) look to regain form after battling through injuries, while junior Dan Ball (Bernardsville, N.J./Bernards) was one of the team’s most productive arms in 2019, appearing in 12 games with six starts and posting a 3.64 ERA over 29.2 innings. Giovinco’s role on the staff will be in relief.
The coaching staff is hoping for a big jump from the sophomore class. Nate Masteralexis (Amherst, Mass./Northfield Mount Hermon) went 2-1 over six appearances last season, while Tim Fay (Easthampton, Mass./Williston Northampton) appeared in nine games, primarily in relief. Classmates Tyler Carmolingo (Mullica Hills, N.J./Saint Augustine Prep), Teo Torrado (New York, N.Y./Polytech Prep Country Day), Jack Corrigan (Northport, N.Y./Northport), and Sammy Sestito (Sea Girt, N.J./Saint Rose) have all improved their skills in the last year.
Newcomers vying for time on the mound include Mike Maratea (River Vale, N.J./Glen Rock), Connor Sikora (Easton, Pa./Easton), Brett Leighton (Collegeville, Pa./Pop John Paul II), and Mike Giammarino (Basking Ridge, N.J./Gill Saint Bernards).
Gettysburg kicks off the 2020 campaign with early non-conference road trips to Marymount (Va.) University and Messiah College on March 1 and March 4, respectively. The season opener will take place at the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.
The Bullets play 10 games over seven days during their spring break trip to Florida from March 8-14. Eight non-conference dates fill the schedule before the team gets into Centennial Conference play at home against Haverford College on March 28. Gettysburg was picked to finish ninth in the conference in the preseason coaches’ poll.
Other important dates to note include the team’s Take ALS Yard event against Swarthmore College on April 18 and Senior Day against McDaniel College on April 24.
The top four teams in the conference standings will qualify for the CC Championship on April 30-May 3.
This story was originally posted on the Gettysburg College Website.