Veteran Pitchers Lead Charge to Defend Conference Title
The baseball team is heading into the spring season with last year’s North Coast Athletic Conference Champion title under their belt and a squad of veterans who lived to tell the tale — and are eager to tell it again. The Yeomen’s returning star pitchers, who just last year were rookies themselves, will be the team’s driving source of experience on the field.
Last season, pitches from sophomores Milo Sklar and Sean Kiley burned down the stretch to lead the Yeomens’ defense on the mound during their Conference-championship run. Sklar and Kiley — both first-years at the time — earned NCAC All-Tournament honors, Sklar being named NCAC Tournament MVP with a team-high 35 strikeouts and a league-leading 3.02-earned run average. Kiley was awarded Oberlin’s Male Newcomer of the Year.
Head Coach Adrian Abrahamowicz said these rookies’ strong performances and talent led them to emerge as team leaders.
“I think Milo Sklar and Sean Kiley, plus Kyle Dominy last year as a sophomore, they were really our top three arms,” Coach Abrahamowicz said, adding that the trio lends both depth and experience on the pitcher’s mound that will ultimately have a large impact on the Yeomens’ success.
Senior pitcher Harrison Wollman agreed that the Yeomen’s defense will prove to be a bright spot this season.
“Our strength is definitely in our pitching and defense,” Wollman said. “We return [with] almost our entire staff while adding some freshman that have the talent to contribute on day one. Our defense is noticeably upgrading from last season, which should help keep us in every game we play.”
Even though the team’s leadership seems to rest in pitching this upcoming season, junior Dominy said he thinks the team’s cohesion and positivity riding off of last season’s success will be big hitters.
“Last year’s deep run gives us invaluable experience for this year,” Dominy said. “It also gives us the confidence to know we can consistently play on a high level for long periods of time. I think the strength of our team is the great team chemistry we have and the confidence we have in each other. We also have great team leaders and coaches, which is another big strength of the program.”
While Coach Abrahamowicz acknowledged the potential setbacks borne from losing a graduating class of key athletes, he said he believes the team will find its footing in a new way while still packing the same punch.
“This season is going to be interesting,” he said. “Losing a lot of pretty special seniors, returning some really good pitchers that are younger — the team is taking shape in a different way.”
In losing the majority of the starters, Coach Abrahamowicz said that his newer players have an opportunity to fill their old teammates’ shoes.
“There are a lot of positions to be filled with the only real returning starters [being junior] Justin Cruz [and seniors] Blaise Dolcemaschio and Brian Hemmert as our catchers,” he said. “A lot of guys will need to step up.”
Junior outfielder Justin Cruz said he sees the leadership coming from the senior and junior classes but also has confidence in whoever fills in the needed roles. As Sklar and Kiley proved last year, players do not need seniority to become leaders on Dill Field.
“I think all of the senior captains have a very strong voice in the locker room as well as the junior class too,” he said. “But there will be a lot of new starters this year, considering all of the players on the team who graduated last year, so really anyone who gets playing time and proves themselves can make a great impact on the team, regardless of class year.”
Offensively, the Yeomen look to use a different approach on how to put winning numbers on the board. After losing tons of power hitters and consistency from the previous class, junior pitcher Joe Greenberg says the new offensive approach seems to be more speed-oriented.
“We have a different offensive team all around. Not as many triples and home runs but more line drives and groundball games,” he said. “We expect sophomore Sam Harris to be a really consistent hitter for us, along with senior Colin Brown and junior Brian Carney being our power hitters. Our base-running game will be much improved also because we are now much faster and can be more strategic on the base pads.”
The Yeomen will hit the field for their opening game against Ohio Northern University March 12. This team will no longer be seen as a team that is out to shock the world again. With a large target on their backs as defending conference champs, they hope that their team’s depth will prove that they deserve their spot at the top.