First Pitch of 2018 Coming Next Weekend

First Pitch of 2018 Coming Next Weekend

CLAREMONT, Calif. – In just over a week the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps baseball team will dust off the uniforms and begin the 2018 season. The Stags open the season with a busy weekend against the Northwest Conference. CMS hosts Willamette on Friday, Feb. 2 at 2:00 p.m. before welcoming Lewis & Clark (doubleheader) on Saturday and Whitman on Sunday.

See below for a quick preview of the new season:

A Look Back
Last season the Stags finished the season with a 16-21 overall record and a 10-14 mark in the SCIAC. The overall record marked a five-game improvement over the 2016 season. On Senior Day, the Stags topped the 2017 National Champion Cal Lutheran Kingsmen 5-4 thanks to a walk-off single from Chase Eller (CMC) in the bottom of the ninth. The walk-off was one of just 11 losses that the Kingsmen suffered all season and helped to end the 2017 CMS campaign on a high note.

A year ago, senior catcher Evan Opperman (CMC) was named Second-Team All-SCIAC after leading the Stags in hitting with a .336 batting average. Opperman also led the Stags with a .569 slugging percentage and hammered seven home runs.

Senior pitcher Sam Baughman (CMC) anchored the Stags' staff starting 12 games and leading the team with 69.0 innings on the mound. He pitched to a 6-3 record with a 4.57 ERA while striking out 38 batters.

On the Bump
Despite the loss of Baughman, the pitching staff looks to be deeper and more experienced this season with sophomores Konnor Kwok (CMC) and Cameron Cash (CMC) returning to the rotation. Last season the duo combined for 15 starts and 95.0 innings on the hill during their freshman campaigns. Both Kwok and Cash pitched to identical 4.83 ERAs.

Justin Hull (CMC), Brandon Louie (CMC), Nick Ludwig (CMC) and Daniel Enzminger (CMC) will all be competing for a spot in the rotation this season. Louie and Hull both had some starting experience last year, taking the ball in six and three games, respectively. Enzminger made 10 appearances last season, logging 21.0 innings out of the bullpen with a team-leading 3.43 ERA.

The Stags welcome freshman Nick Ludwig (CMC), Danny Porras (CMC), Nico Mannucci (CMC), and Brandon Mitchell (CMC) to the staff this season. Along with the group of strong freshman, Jacob McGowan (CMC) and Ben Meyer (CMC) are back to full strength after being hampered with injuries last season.

Around the Horn
Much like the pitching staff, the Stags' offense looks to improve upon a 2017 season that saw eight offensive players miss some, or all, of the season with injuries. The addition of multiple new players and the return of Kevin Nakahara (HMC) will be major factors for CMS this spring.

Last season, Trey Smith (CMC) anchored the outfield, slashing .284/.351/.480 along with four homers and 25 RBI while appearing in 25 games. With Smith in center, the Stags will turn to Nakahara and Henri Levenson (CMC) to cover the corners. Last season Nakahara missed the majority of the season while Levenson slashed .220/.308/.276 with 16 runs batted in and 17 runs scored in his first year in Claremont. Look for Deji Andrew (HMC) and freshman Sean Emery (CMC) to be in the mix in the outfield as well. 

In the infield, the Stags return all of their primary starters from last season, but expect the crew to be shuffled around on the diamond this year. Ryan Motter (CMC) manned the hot corner last season and led the team with a .475 on-base percentage. Motter finished the season with just four strikeouts in 91 at bats while drawing a team-high 20 walks. Alex Clemens (CMC) handled short for the 2017 campaign and held a .310 on-base percentage while drawing 14 walks, driving home nine runs, and scoring 16 of his own.

On the right side of the field, Chase Eller will likely slide from second to first and possibly spend some time as the designated hitter this season. As a second baseman last year, Eller led the teams with 30 RBI and his free-swinging ways allowed him to finish the 2017 season with a solid .333/.381/.489 slash line. Nick DeGallier (CMC) anchored first base a year ago and drove home 23 runs during his sophomore campaign. Jack Savard (CMC) also floated around the infield in 2017, appearing in 32 games and slashing .226/.347/.226 while primarily seeing action at second and third.

Also keep an eye on freshmen Patrick Gavin (CMC), who will get the nod as the starting second baseman this season. Brandon Mitchell (CMC) will also compete for time in what looks to be a crowded infield this year.

CJ Novogradac (CMC) will be bat that the Stags will look to slot into the line-up this season, primarily as a designated hitter. Last season he slashed .278/.404/.411 with a pair of home runs and 14 RBI during his sophomore campaign.

Behind the dish, the Stags lost their primary backstop in Evan Opperman (CMC). CMS will call on Pat Shore (CMC) to fill the void left behind the plate. Shore appeared in 10 games last season, driving home three runs and knocking three doubles in just 18 at bats. Shore, along with freshman Carson Bridges (CMC), will hold down the catching duties this season.

What to Watch For
As mentioned, the Stags open the season next weekend with four games in three days against teams from the Northwest Conference. After a quick trip to Tucson, Ariz. to play Redlands, Sul Ross St., and Texas-Dallas the Stags are back in Claremont to open the SCIAC schedule with a meeting with Caltech on Feb. 16.

Doubleheaders at Arce Field for the 2018 season include meetings with Bates/Puget Sound (Feb. 23), La Verne (Mar. 3), Ursinus (Mar. 9), Redlands (Mar. 31), Chapman (Apr. 14), and Cal Lutheran (Apr. 28). The meeting against Cal Lutheran pits the Stags against the defending National Champions in the final weekend of the season.

Other games to highlight on the calendar include the three-game series against Pomona-Pitzer on Apr. 6-7 and two possible meetings against National Pitcher of the Year candidate Felix Minjarez from Redlands on Feb. 9 and Mar. 30.

On the Bench
Head coach Bill Walkenbach enters his third season on the bench for the Stags. Flanking Walkenbach in the dugout will be three assistants in their first year with the program. Jake Ayers, Scott Frazier, and Thomas Vollaro all join the Stags as assistant coaches for the 2018 campaign.