Preview: Baseball Looks to Keep Improving

Friday, February 21, 2014 - page 2

The noise the Muhlenberg baseball team hopes to make in 2014 will be with its bats, gloves, arms and legs, not with its mouths.

John Scuderi
Scuderi leads active Mule players in walks (53) and is second in extra-base hits (23). He also ranks third in team history with 305 career assists, 86 away from the school record.
The Mules, who are scheduled to open their season with a doubleheader at Gallaudet on Sunday, went 20-20 last year and improved by four games in the Centennial Conference standings. Now they are looking for more, and they’ve adopted the motto “Don’t Talk About It. Be About It.”

“We’re all talented players, and we know all 40 of us can get it done on the field. But saying it and doing it are two different things,” explained senior third baseman John Scuderi. “We’re trying to focus more. Last year we feel we didn’t play to our potential and get the results we wanted.

“It was great seeing everyone make strides and become the fourth 20-win team in school history. But that’s not really where we want to be. We want to be closer to 25 wins, 30 wins, make the conference tournament and make some noise in the conference tournament.”

Muhlenberg made plenty of noise at the plate last year, setting a school record with 84 doubles, and although two of its biggest bats graduated, the team has plenty of experience around the diamond.

Senior co-captain Brett Rosen had his best offensive year in 2013, hitting .330 with two home runs and 29 RBI, and had one of the best defensive years in program history, setting a school record with 178 errorless chances behind the plate. Junior Conor McDermott, another solid backstop, will also see time at catcher.

Senior co-captain Nick Kennedy returns at first base after hitting .329 with 13 doubles and 29 RBI, while juniors Danny Usewick (.267, 10 RBI) and Chris Manfredonia (.299, 21 RBI in 2012) will compete for time at second. Junior Michael Giordano will also get a look in the middle infield.

Scuderi and junior Kurt Johnson will man the left side of the infield. Scuderi hit over .300 his first two seasons and will look for a bounceback campaign after struggling with injury last year. Johnson, one of the top athletes on the team, started every game last spring and hit .299 with 21 RBI

Interestingly, Scuderi and Johnson swapped the positions they played most of last season. “I was actually recruited as a third baseman and moved to shortstop so I could play right away,” said Scuderi. “It feels good being back at third base. I’ve played it most of my life and feel very comfortable there, and I know Kurt has played a lot of shortstop. The move can only benefit us.”

Max Litvak
Litvak has a career slugging percentage of .456 and tied a school record with six hits in a game last season.
Junior Jimmy Cody, the team’s active career leader in runs scored, extra-base hits and stolen bases, will start in center and bat leadoff. Senior co-captain Tyler Latrenta (.333 in 2013) mans one of the corner outfield spots, with juniors Chris Flynn and Vince Nardone in competition for the other one.

Seniors Jimmy Aramanda (career .296 hitter) and Max Litvak (career .327 hitter) and junior Nick Plinio (career .294 hitter) are the top bats at designated hitter and off the bench.

“I feel like our lineup has good balance,” said Scuderi. “We have guys at the top who can get on and steal bases, and guys behind them who can get RBIs.”

Trying to prevent the other team from getting guys on and in will be a pitching staff that posted its lowest ERA in 10 years last season. Junior co-captain Matthew Lawsky is at the top of the rotation after going 3-2 with a 3.18 ERA. Junior Nick Gies was right behind him with a 3-1 record and 3.23 ERA.

Juniors Christian Ferlan and David Anderson also figure to be in the rotation, with junior Phillip Balseca moving into the closer role. Third-year veteran Austin Cush (3-0 career record, one save in 27 appearances) will be one of the first relievers out of the bullpen in the middle innings.

To prepare for the CC, which had seven of its 10 teams win at least 20 games last year, Muhlenberg will play a challenging non-league schedule that includes Division I Lehigh and 2013 NCAA Tournament participants Moravian, Penn State Harrisburg and Manchester, a top-10 team that reached the College World Series. And while the Mules are eager to play those teams early in the season – heck, after this winter, they’re happy to get out of the fieldhouse and play anyone – the key will be to maintain their energy level throughout the next two-plus months.

“Everyone’s excited about this weekend,” said Scuderi. “The real challenge is to keep the same excitement through the 20th game and the 30th game.”