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Season Preview: Experienced Bison baseball squad eyes a return to NEAC tournament

Season Preview: Experienced Bison baseball squad eyes a return to NEAC tournament

WASHINGTON - The Gallaudet University baseball team enters the 2017 campaign with more experience and several key players that hope to send the Bison back to the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) tournament in May.

The Bison posted a 9-30 record last season with a young and inexperienced team. GU returns basically the entire team from last year and is adding several impact players that will help re-energize a program that won 20 or more games for three consecutive seasons (2012-14) before two down seasons.

Gallaudet University baseball coach Curtis Pride doesn't shy away when he says the goal for the program is to make the NEAC playoffs and finish as a top four team in the conference.

"I am excited about this season. We are more competitive than last year. We basically have the whole team back from last year," said Pride. "I am excited to see how well we are going to do this season, especially in the conference. It is important for these guys, especially the freshmen, to see some tough teams early to help us prepare for the conference schedule."

Pride and company are never shy about scheduling some nationally and regionally ranked teams. The games against these teams help the Bison prepare for the NEAC schedule.

Here is a breakdown of the 2017 Gallaudet baseball team.

2016 REVIEW
Record:
9-30
NEAC Record:
4-10
Awards:
Seven NEAC Scholar-Athletes; One NEAC All-Conference Second Team Honors; Two NEAC Baseball Player of the Week Honors; One NEAC Baseball Pitcher of the Week Honors

TOP RETURNERS

Justin Strong (Charlotte, N.C.), Sr., 1B
The senior first baseman is a dangerous hitter even after an off year last season. Strong is a solid defender in the field and plays his position extremely well. Strong posted a .248 batting average last season, nearly 100 points lower than his sophomore season mark (.341). He clubbed GU's lone home run and drove in 18 runs, scored 13 times and collected 31 hits including six doubles and one triple. Strong needs to bounce back at the plate if wants to earn a second all-conference honor (2015) this season.

Kyle Gumm (Dallas, Texas), Jr., OF
Gumm has improved every season for the Bison. He has the potential to be one of the best outfielders in the NEAC this year, especially defensively. Gumm started all 39 games last season and was second on the team with a .310 batting average, 45 hits, 20 RBI, 27 runs, six doubles, two triples and seven stolen bases.

Cameron Upton (Vicksburg, Miss.), So., SS
Upton was named to the All-NEAC second team last season. He led the team in six offensive categories; batting average (.345), hits (51), doubles (8), slugging percentage (.399), on-base percentage (.412), and was tied for the team lead in stolen bases (7). He also accumulated 25 runs, 19 RBI and finished the season with a fielding percentage of .897. Upton was named NEAC Player of the Week back on March 7, 2016. Upton is swinging the bat well in preseason camp but will need to be more consistent in the field and cut down on errors this season.

Blake Phillips (Dalton, Ga.), Sr., P/2B
Phillips started the most games on the mound for the Bison last season with 11 as he made 13 appearances. He won two games, threw one complete game, logged 61.1 innings where he struck out 40 batters. Phillips, an infielder when not on the mound, got 89 at bats where he collected 22 hits, three doubles, two triples, 11 runs and 13 RBI. Phillips needs to be more consistent on the mound and keep the ball down.

Ian Evans (Murphy, N.C.), Sr., P
Evans was the second most used pitcher to start games for the Bison last season with 10 starts and 13 appearances. He and Phillips led the team with 40 strikeouts. Evans threw a program best three complete games and won two games in 69.1 innings of work. This season, a new arm slot has helped Evans with his control and keeping the ball down in the zone.

KEY LOSSES

Chase Magsig (Hudsonville, Mich.), Sr., OF
Magsig was a four-year letterwinner for the Bison where he finished his career with a .285 batting average, 133 hits, 83 runs, 17 doubles, 51 RBI and 20 stolen bases. Magsig was a fixture in center field and supplied solid defense (.953 career fielding percentage). He was an All-NEAC Second Team selection his junior season. Last season, Magsig was first on the team in RBI (20) and third in hits (35) and runs (23).

Ben Coleman (St. Paris, Ohio), Sr., P
Coleman was a three-year letterwinner for the Bison where he pitched in 39 games (11 starts) and logged 103 innings where he struck out 55 batters. He won three games, made one save and pitched three complete games. He threw 50 innings last season where he made 19 appearances (seven starts).

Albert Blake (Derby, Conn.), Sr., P
Blake was a two-year letterwinner and one of four seniors on the Bison squad last season. In two seasons, he appeared in 37 games (nine starts), won five games, two complete games, pitched 115 innings where he struck out 49 batters. Last season, he led the Bison with a 3-4 record, 3.97 ERA in 77 innings and 31 strikeouts.

IMPACT ADDITIONS

Austin Sliva-Wynne (Richmond, Texas), Fr., OF/P
Sliva-Wynne is a very athletic and quick player. He will be fast on the base paths and look for his live arm to help the Bison on the bump. At the plate, he brings a quick bat and has plate discipline.

Frank Diaz (Far Rockaway, N.Y.), Fr., 2B/P
Diaz is green and needs experience at the collegiate level. He will get plenty of opportunities in 2017 and will contribute on the mound in addition to playing in the infield.

Michael Ehlers (Tinley Park, Ill.), Jr., OF/DH
Ehlers hasn't played baseball for several years but is a mature player that should add some guidance in the locker room. He continues to work on his defense and swing.

Connor Rosko (Austin, Texas), Fr., UTL/P
Rosko brings solid pitching mechanics to the table and will give GU a much needed arm to its pitching corp. The hard worker from the Texas School for the Deaf needs to work on his swing when he is at the plate.

QUOTING COACH

"I think we will see a lot of improvement from last year because we have a lot of experience. Plus, we have a lot of newcomers coming in that can play right away. Our biggest question mark is our pitching. We have struggled in the past (pitching wise) so our season will depend on pitching. We have the ability to improve in this area." Curtis Pride, Gallaudet University baseball head coach

SCHEDULE OVERVIEW

  • Season/Home Opener: vs. Valley Forge (Sun., Feb. 19)
  • Spring Break: Six games in Fort Myers, Fla. (March 12-17)
  • First Conference Game: at Penn St.-Abington (Sat., April 1)
  • Last Home Game/Senior Day: vs. SUNY Poly (Sun., April 23)
  • NEAC Postseason Tournament: May 12-14

Gallaudet will begin its season with an eight-game homestand that begins on Feb. 19 against University of Valley Forge in a non-conference doubleheader. The following weekend the Bison will host Southern Vermont (Feb. 25) and Muhlenberg College (Feb. 26) in non-conference doubleheaders.

GU begins the month of March at home against Clarks Summit (March 4) for two before hitting the road to face in-region powerhouse Christopher Newport University on March 5. The Bison return home to host McDaniel College (March 7) before packing their bags for their Spring Break trip (March 12-19).

The Bison return home and will travel to Washington College (March 22), St. Mary's (Md.) College in Waldorf, Md. (March 23), and out to Frostburg State University (March 26) before hosting Catholic University of America (March 30) to close out the month.

GU opens North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) play in April with a doubleheader away against Penn St.-Abington, the 2016 NEAC regular-season champs and tournament runner-ups, on April 1. The Bison return home to host regionally ranked Shenandoah University on April 2. Gallaudet's first home NEAC games will be against rival Penn St.-Berks, the 2016 NEAC champions, on April 8 for two games. The Bison will venture out of conference at Hood (April 9) and host Penn St.-Harrisburg (April 14) before focusing on more conference games. Gallaudet will host Lancaster Bible College (April 15), Cazenovia College (April 22) and SUNY Poly (April 23). The latter of which will serve as Senior Day for the Bison. GU will travel to Penn College (April 18), Wells College (April 29) and Keuka College (April 30).

The Bison will travel to Arlington, Va., on May 7, to face Marymount (Va.) University. The NEAC tournament will be held on May 12-14 at the site of the highest seed.

The expectations are set and the Bison baseball team hopes to make a return trip to the NEAC Tournament this May after a two-year absence.

BISON HOME GAMES

Feb. 19 vs. Valley Forge (DH), Noon
Feb. 25 vs. Southern Vermont (DH), Noon
Feb. 26 vs. Muhlenberg (DH), Noon
Mar. 04 vs. Clarks Summit (DH), Noon
Mar. 07 vs. McDaniel, 3 p.m.
Mar. 30 vs. Catholic, 3:30 p.m.
Apr. 02 vs. Shenandoah, 1 p.m.
Apr. 08 vs. Penn St.-Berks (DH), 1 p.m.
Apr. 14 vs. Penn St.-Harrisburg, 3:30 p.m.
Apr. 15 vs. Lancaster Bible (DH), 1 p.m.
Apr. 22 vs. Cazenovia (DH), Noon
Apr. 23 vs. SUNY Poly (DH), Noon

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