Highlander Baseball Preview
Highlander baseball is right around the corner, and with the uniquely warm weather we have experienced in the past couple of weeks, it is highly possible that in less than two weeks the Highlanders will play their season opener against Norwich University on February 24, 2017. With baseball on the horizon, the hot topic is how the Highlanders will respond after the most successful season in Cairn Baseball history last season when they totaled 19 wins. A young team, consisting of only 2 seniors and 13 freshmen (!) looks to build off the successful 2016 season and hit the ground running in 2017.
Enter 1st-year head coach Phill Shallenberger. Shallenberger begins his first season at the helm of the Highlanders after completing a stay at Belmont University as a graduate assistant; prior to that, Coach Shallenberger was an assistant here at Cairn University. Shallenberger takes over what many consider to be the most talented team the Highlanders have ever boasted, and expectations will be high as the Highlanders embark on the 2017 season. Shallenberger brings an immense amount of baseball experience and knowledge to the table, as he played 4 years of college baseball himself at Geneva College.
On offense, the Highlanders graduated 2 of their top three hitters; however, sophomore SS Aaron Takacs returns as the Highlanders top hitter and overall player. Takacs is coming off an impressive freshman campaign in which he hit at a .438 clip, and was named one of the top hitters in the nation by herosports.com–check out the article here: http://herosports.com/d3-baseball-10-best-hitters-zach-leone-adrian-celatadevon-deraad)
The Highlanders will likely look to build their offense around the dangerous bat of Takacs in order to throw off opposing teams.
The rest of the infield looks fairly solid as well. Senior Jacob Allen and Freshman Nate Wilson appear to be formidable options at the 2nd and 3rd base, while there is some deliberation at what will happen at 1st base. Allen, one of two seniors on this Highlander baseball team, is an on-base machine, garnering an OBP of .442 last season, and will likely be a solid option to hit in the top of the order due to his on-base prowess. Wilson is without a shadow of a doubt one of the most talented players in the freshman class for the Highlanders this season. A graduate of New Hope-Solebury, Wilson hit at a .529 clip in his senior season for New Hope. While it is yet to be seen if that talent will transfer to the college level, it is still an exciting prospect for Highlander fans.
In the outfield, it is a toss-up considering the Highlanders graduated all three starting outfielders last season; the Highlanders will look to young players in order to fill those positions this year. Emilio Alvarez, Zach Vegh, Keith Lenoue (when he returns from injury), and dual sport athlete Brendan Keller look to be the best options for the Highlanders early in the season. That being said, replacing Caleb Lang and now assistant coach Joey Nieves Markee will be no small task, so the outfield could fluctuate as the season progresses.
On the mound, the Highlanders boast their biggest strength. With all pitchers returning from last season, the team is adding several new arms as well. Sophomore Sam Dralle will lead the staff as the team’s ace. Dralle comes into this season after an impressive freshman season where he lead the staff in complete games. The rest of the pitching staff is very strong, including senior John Burlaga and sophomore Eric Stinglen. The bullpen will be strong as well, with Matt Trotman being the defacto leader of the bullpen for the upcoming season, along with many other arms. Trotman had this to say regarding the Highlanders preparation for the 2017 season:
“We’re excited and ready to go. Our guys have been working really hard, and we expect to carry last year’s success into this year by competing, having some fun, and glorifying God in the process.”
Highlander baseball is on the rise, that is for certain. It will be fun to watch Highlander baseball continue to grow as they try to build on the recent success of the program for years and years to come.