Open the sunflower seeds, slap on the pine-tar, turn up the country music – and zip up your parka. Despite the cold weather, baseball is back. The baseball team is set to kick off its 2006 regular season tomorrow against Bucknell (0-3, 0-0 Patriot) in Lewisburg, Pa. Despite temperatures anticipated to be in the mid-30’s at game time, the game is scheduled to take place as planned. However, if conditions worsen the game could be postponed.
“Beginning of the week it said 40s. We’ve been checking it everyday, twice a day,” said head coach Tom Ford. “It’s just one of those things you deal with. You’re in the Northeast and you just have to get used to it.”
Despite practicing indoors for a majority of the off-season, the team is looking forward to finally seeing pitchers and hitters that aren’t familiar faces. Although a majority of the team hails from the West coast and other states such as Texas and Colorado, there is a positive outlook on getting the season started despite the frigid temperatures not usually considered to be ideal for baseball.
“We’re just excited to get going,” Ford said. “Weather will take its toll but we really have no other choice. We’ve got to get the games in. We’ve got a lot of guys on this team that are used to playing when it’s warm, but that won’t be the case on Saturday. Looking at the forecast though, 35 and sunny is a great deal better than 40 and cloudy.”
Senior co-captains Rocky Collis and Seth Gordon lead the defending Gehrig division champions against the Bisons. The right-handed ace of the pitching staff, Collis, went 2-4 last season with the Red in nine starts. Gordon, the team’s second baseman and lead-off hitter, hit .315 in his junior campaign while scoring a team high 30 runs. Sophomore Brian Kaufman, classmate Jimmy Heinz and senior catchers Matt Goodson and William Pauly will all contribute this weekend.
Although the team returns seven starters in the field, a strong freshman class and a solid group of junior transfers will make a push for starting roles. Freshman Domenic Di Riccio looks to make his debut in left field while classmate Scott Hardinger will look to somehow fill the void left by the graduation of Matt Miller ’05, as he will start at shortstop. With 11 newcomers in the mix, this weekend’s festivities will provide an opportunity to see how the team’s new parts will add to the efficiency of the Red machine.
“Certainly in the early part of the season we’ve got to see people, tool with the line-up a little bit and things like that,” Ford said. “You can only make certain evaluations in practice, especially when you’re indoors most of the time. We’re going to look at some things, as we have to because of our depth, but yet we still want to go down there and win the games.”
Bucknell, who finished last season in third place in the Patriot League, opened its season two weeks ago, dropping three games to West Virginia by scores of 10-2, 8-4, and 8-1. The Bisons are currently winless on the young season and are led by junior pitcher Matt Curry, senior outfielder Kyle Walter and senior shortstop Matt Capece. Walter was a home-run shy of hitting for the cycle in game two of the Bison’s series against the Mountaineers.
“We expect them to be pretty good and of course, they’ve already got a few games under their belt,” Ford said. “They’re always well-coached and have many talented players. It’s going to be the type of thing where we have to go down and play well to win. There’s no doubt about that. Certainly with any game, that’s what we have to do.”
Collis will get the ball to start out the weekend. Other pitchers who are expected to see action include junior Jim Hyland, sophomore Bryce Klinesteker, and junior Blake Hamilton. Junior Adam Loeding, sophomore Walker Toma and junior Tom Laughlin will be in relief.
“Now is when the fun starts,” Ford said. “Not only for the players, but for the coaching staff as well. Now we get to see if the team is capable of doing the things we think they’re capable of.”