AMHERST, Mass. – Amherst College baseball has put an emphasis on execution as they begin preparations for the 2018 season, and they are hoping that will lead them back to the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) tournament for the eighth straight year.
The Mammoths are looking to improve on a 20-16 record last season that saw them post an 8-4 conference mark, but ended around two disappointing losses to Tufts in the NESCAC postseason.
"Last year, we put ourselves in a good position to compete for a NESCAC Championship, but we fell short because we didn't execute in the ways that we had prepared. We need to do a better job of holding ourselves accountable this season," said Head Coach Brian Hamm. "While we have a lot of depth, we lost a lot of talent to graduation and the MLB Draft; we need to be grounded in fundamental baseball to give ourselves a chance to return to the NESCAC Tournament."
This season, Amherst will have versatility from the top to bottom of the lineup, though the middle of the order may see a dip in power with the departure of several All-Conference position players from a year ago. The game-plan will be to find new ways to get runners on base and advanced, as opposed to relying on driving the ball for extra bases.
Run prevention will also be critical, especially with a young and inexperienced pitching staff on the bump.
"We have many position players with lots of game experience. Defense needs to be our strength and in order for us to leverage our experience we need to earn the trust of our pitchers. Doing so will allow our pitchers to pitch 'to contact' and be more effective and more efficient."
Steinhorn and Roberson led the team in at bats a year-ago, and Roberson was named to the NESCAC All-Conference First Team after placing second in the league with 18 extra base hits, including 12 doubles and four triples. He was also third in the NESCAC in runs (40) and hits (52), and led the team with a .538 slugging percentage.
Steinhorn batted .313 with a team-leading 16 stolen bases. He scored 31 runs and knocked in 12 RBI, and he and Roberson each struck out just eleven times all year. Defensivley, Steinhorn made just four errors on 158 total chances.
Nardone was also a plus .300 hitter, and he co-led the team with three home runs while driving in 20 runs and smacking five doubles and forty hits.
Severino Simeone returns to the starting catcher roll after hitting .306 in 108 at-bats last year, while Ariel Kenney '18 and Ryan Hardin '18 will patrol the outfield this year, Hardin coming off a .327 season with 12 stolen bases and Kenney having hit seven doubles, two triples and two homers last year.
Like in the lineup, the Mammoths will have to overcome the loss of several key parts of their pitching rotation due to graduation and the drafting of Drew Fischer, who projected to take over as the number one starter in his senior year before being selected in the 35th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The only returning starter with NESCAC experience is Sam Schneider '18, who posted a 2-2 record with a 2.56 earned run average last season. Schneider posted a 6.52 strikeout per nine innings and earned victories over Colby and Williams.
Brown started six games last year, while Horwitz went 2-0 in 12 appearances, striking out twenty batters and posting a 3.58 earned run average.
Dow made ten appearances as a sophomore last season with nine strikeouts in just nine and a third innings pitched.
The 2018 season begins with an eight-game trip to Florida, starting this Sunday at 10:30 AM against Otterbein. Also on the slate for the southern swing is a Monday doubleheader against Wisconsin Lutheran, dates with Nichols, Haverford, Susquehanna, Denison and #21 Marietta.
The home opener is shortly after Amherst returns from Florida, a Wednesday, March 21st game against Westfield State at 3:30 PM. That begins a three-game home-stand that also sees Curry and Fitchburg State pay a visit to the Pioneer Valley.
NESCAC play starts Friday, March 30th with a weekend series against Hamilton College, and rivals Williams come to Amherst for a double-header on Saturday April 7th.
The Mammoths get NESCAC West rivals Wesleyan for a single-game on Friday, April 20th before heading to Middletown the next day for a pair of games.
The regular season closes out on May 5th with a pair of games against Colby.