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Amherst College > Athletics > Baseball > 2002 Preview
   

Pitching, Defense Keys to Second Straight Postseason Berth

March 11, 2002


J.R. Drabick '02
Senior catcher J.R. Drabick's defense will be a major factor in the Jeffs' success
Pitching depth, strong catching and excellent outfield defense will be the strengths the Amherst College baseball team will rely on most in vying for a return trip to the NESCAC Postseason Championship Tournament this season. The Jeffs return five seniors, including starting pitchers Jeff Leduc (Pittsfield, MA) and Dave Krauser (Short Hills, NJ), from a 2001 club that posted a 20-14 overall record and finished second in the NESCAC West Division at 8-4.

Amherst has some holes to fill after losing a number of key players to graduation. Among them, First-Team All-NESCAC third-baseman Ryan Whitmarsh (Dalton, MA) provided a solid left-handed stick in the middle of the order, finishing second in the conference with a .435 batting average on the strength of a school record 28-game hitting streak. Verizon District I All-Academic shortstop Jordan Krall (Encino, CA) was just as valuable, cementing the middle infield with a reliable glove, batting .317 and tying Whitmarsh for the team-lead with 27 RBI's. Leftfielder Dave Siegle (Falmouth, ME) and closer Kevin Downes (Pound Ridge, NY) will also be sorely missed. Siegle, a Second-Team All-NESCAC selection, leaves Amherst with a .348 career batting average and seven round trippers, while Downes battled injuries last season to post a 3-1 record with two saves and 28 strikeouts in 29 innings.

Luckily, the Jeffs boast a solid corps of veterans to fall back on, beginning with LeDuc and Krauser, who could emerge as the top two starting pitchers. LeDuc was stellar last season, earning Second-Team All-NESCAC honors after finishing second in the conference and 15th in the nation with a 1.74 ERA. He also posted a team-best 5-1 record while holding opponents to a .190 batting average, and paced the staff with six complete games and two shutouts. Meanwhile, Krauser gained valuable experience as a junior, striking out 44 batters in 47.1 innings - both team-highs. Sophomore right-hander Duncan Webb (Lynn, MA) could also pierce the starting rotation after finishing 2-2 out of the bullpen and holding opponents to a meager .195 batting average in 2001.

Sophomore Andy Kerns (Barrington, IL) and juniors Jonah Ansell (Oak Park, IL) and Chris Vecsey (Madison, NY) - the team's lone southpaw - will shore up the staff in dual roles as starters and relievers, while newcomers Patrick Mawn (Wilton, CT), Kyle Lavery (Westbury, NY) and Ed Imperatore (Tenafly, NJ) should provide added depth as the season progresses.

The pitching staff will work with a savvy veteran backstop, senior catcher J.R. Drabick (Lebanon, NH), one of the best defensive signal callers in the NESCAC. As a junior, Drabick committed just four errors in 204 chances, gunned down eight would-be base stealers and batted a respectable .298 with 18 runs and 16 RBI's. Another solid catcher, junior Joe Katuska (Southboro, MA), could also see action behind the dish and at third base after finishing third on the team with a .338 average.

Another senior, second baseman John Brody (Baltimore, MD), will anchor the infield. The fleet-footed pivot man swiped a team-high 10 bases in 12 attempts last season, paced the Jeffs with 29 runs scored and finished just behind Katuska as the team's fourth-leading hitter at .336. He'll be joined on the right side of the infield by junior Brett Nicol (Orinda, CA), who started 32 games at first base last season, and senior first baseman Jim Hochrein (Greenfield, MA), who returns to the fold after batting .367 in 2000. The left side will be more of a question mark after the departure of Krall and Whitmarsh. Sophomore Matt Potter (Durham, NC) saw limited time behind Krall last year but worked hard in the off-season and could draw the starting nod at third base, along with classmate Andy Argyris (Oakland, CA). Meanwhile, first-year phenom Josh Santry (Allendale, NJ) has been steady during the preseason and looks to fill Krall's shoes at short.

The outfield should be athletic and extremely solid defensively, with sophomore three-sport standout Paul Whiting (Mission Viejo, CA) taking over in center field. Whiting was voted the team's Rookie of the Year after breaking into the starting lineup midway through the 2001 season, playing spectacular defense and batting .291 with 10 RBI's. Meanwhile, rookie David Powers (Andover, MA) could step into the starting lineup in left, with junior John Schneider (Grand Rapids, MI) looking for a breakout season in right. Junior Devin Haran (Basking Ridge, NJ) should also be a fixture in the lineup, splitting time between the outfield and designated hitter, batting a hearty .362 in limited action as a sophomore. Look for junior Jarret Solomon (Simsbury, CT) (.336 BA, five stolen bases in 2001) to see action in a similar capacity.

Head coach Bill Thurston's Jeffs will be tested early and often during their annual spring jaunt to Fort Myers, Florida, beginning with a season-opening tilt against third-ranked Ohio-Wesleyan University on Saturday, March 16. Other Florida highlights include matchups against 2001 NCAA Tournament teams Johns Hopkins University, Rowan University and the University of Southern Maine, as well as the defending Division III National Champion University of St. Thomas. In the NESCAC, Amherst will look to keep pace with 2001 conference champion Williams College, as well as Trinity College and Tufts University, which are expected to field similarly impressive teams.