After six months of waiting, the 2014 spring season is quickly approaching which means the Hiram College baseball team will look to continue to build upon last season and take the next step towards competing for a possible spot in the North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament.
The Terriers are coming off of a season that saw them post the most victories in almost a decade with 15 (15-22 overall).
“We are looking to build off of the success and progress we had in 2013,” said Head Coach Howard Jenter. “The combination of experience returning and solid young players will be exciting to watch develop.”
This spring, Hiram returns a balanced roster of experience and youth and will return all three player All-Conference winners from last season in senior catcher/infielder Tim Calhoun(Canfield), junior catcher Jim Jaksa (Chesterland/West Geauga) and junior pitcher Nate Weiss(Warren, Mich./University Liggett).
Calhoun started all 37 games in 2013 and led the team in hitting with a .354 batting average (45-of-127). He also led the team in hits (45) and runs batted in (30) in addition to hitting two homeruns, nine doubles, scored 16 runs and was walked 17 times. His nine doubles and 17 walks were second highest on the team. Defensively, Calhoun had a .991 fielding percentage with 181 putouts, 31 assists and just two errors. He also saw playing time as a pitcher ending the season with a 2.45 earned run average, a 1-0 record and two strikeouts in three and two-thirds innings. Following the season, he was tabbed second-team All-NCAC.
Jaksa also started every game last spring and finished just behind Calhoun in hitting with a .344 average (43-of-125). He led the team in homeruns (three), doubles (12), was second in RBI (24) and third in runs scored (23). He was tied with Calhoun in walks with 17. Defensively, Jaksa posted a .927 fielding percentage with 102 putouts and 38 assists. At the end of the season, he garnered honorable mention All-Conference accolades.
Weiss had his best season as a Terrier so far as a sophomore leading the team in wins (four) and strikeouts (48). He was second in both innings pitched (58.1) and appearances (11). Weiss started all but one of the games he played and a team-high five complete games to go along with one shutout. He recorded his best outing of the season in a 3-1 win against Pitt-Greensburg in which he struck out nine batters in seven innings. He also had two games where he struck out eight hitters. Weiss joined Jaksa as a honorable mention All-NCAC pick after the season.
In addition to Calhoun and Jaksa, Hiram will return three other letterwinners in the infield including senior Shane Haidet (Alliance/Marlington). Haidet played in 33 games with 31 starts and was third on the team in hitting with a .337 batting average (33-of-98). He was second on the team in runs scored with 27 and was tied for fourth in RBI with 15. Haidet ended the season 15-of-16 in stolen bases to lead the squad and was amongst the team leaders in walks with 16. In addition, he had two triples and a double.
Also back are juniors Ron DeAmicis (Austintown/Fitch) and Mark Leone (Boardman). Both saw significant playing time with Leone playing in 31 games and DeAmicis 28 games. Leone batted .306 at the plate (34-of-111) with five doubles, 17 runs scored and 17 RBI. His 17 runs were tied for fourth highest and his 17 RBI were third best on the team. DeAmicis posted a .271 batting average (23-of-85) with a double,, 14 runs scored and 10 RBI. He was also amongst the team leaders in walks with eight and had two stolen bases. He also saw time on the mound as a relief pitcher making seven appearances and finishing the season with a 4.63 ERA with 10 strikeouts in 11 and two-thirds innings.
In the outfield, look for seniors George Blake (Parma), Rob O’Toole (Brooklyn, N.Y./La Salle Academy) and junior Jeff Segal (West Bloomfield, Mich./West Bloomfield) to be the veteran leaders. Blake played in 24 games last season and started 20. He batted .224 (15-of-67) at the plate to go along with five doubles, nine runs scored and seven RBI. Defensively, he had a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage with 21 putouts and an assist. O’Toole played in 30 games with 17 starts and ended the season with a .227 batting average (15-of-66) with a double, eight runs scored and four RBI. He was third on the team in stolen bases with six and had a .980 fielding percentage defensively with 48 putouts, an assist and just one error. Segal started every game he played (27) and posted a .223 batting average (21-of-94). He was second in triples (three) and amongst the leaders in doubles (four), runs scored (10) and RBI (12).
Other returning players who could battle for playing time will be junior Andrew Thomas (New Castle, Pa./Laurel) and sophomore Johnny Davis (Temecula, Calif./Linfield Christian). Although listed as a pitcher on the roster, Thomas saw all of his playing time last season as a designated hitter and backup infielder. He played in 14 games and started seven posting a .294 average at the plate (10-of-34) with a homerun, two doubles, four runs scored and two RBI. Davis saw limited playing time in two games and finished one-of-two at the plate with a RBI.
In addition to Weiss, the Terriers will return an experienced pitching staff, including all but one member of the starting rotation from 2013.
Joining Weiss from the starting rotation a year ago are juniors J.T. Taylor (Niles), Pat Rhodes (Girard) and sophomore Evan Wutrick (Alliance/Marlington). Taylor appeared in 11 games, including nine starts, and pitched two complete games. He was tied for second in victories with three and was one of three players to record a save. Taylor led the team in innings pitched (66.1) and was second in strikeouts (40). He ended the season with a 5.83 ERA. Rhodes made a team-high 12 appearances in 2013. He started five of those games and pitched two complete games. He recorded two victories during the year, including a save, and was third in both strikeouts (34) and innings pitched (45). Wutrick had a solid first season as a member of the Hiram pitching staff appearing in nine games. He started five games and had one complete game. Wutrick was tied with Taylor for second in wins with three and had a 5.82 ERA. He tallied 18 strikeouts in 38.2 innings.
Also returning to provide depth at the pitching position will be junior Tanner Gilchrist (Ellwood City, Pa./Lincoln). Last year, Gilchrist made the switch from position player to coming out of the bullpen and had a solid first season making nine appearances primarily in relief and started one game. He had a 2-0 record with 16 strikeouts in 22 innings pitched.
“The leadership of our upperclassmen and our ability to stay composed when games are on the line will be a real key to our success,” added Jenter.
The 2014 schedule will have its equal share of winnable games and challenges. The Terriers will begin the season with their annual spring trip to Ft. Myers, Fla. beginning Mar. 9. Hiram will play a doubleheader against Alvernia (Pa.) University in the season opener. Following the trip south, Hiram is scheduled to host its first home game on Mar. 22 against Penn State-Fayette. The conference schedule is set to open on Mar. 29-30 when the Terriers travel to Oberlin for a four-game series against Oberlin College.
“Our 2014 season kicks off with a challenging schedule in Ft. Myers, Fla.,” said Jenter. “This will give us a benchmark for where this year’s team is at and the guys are excited to get started.”