2016 Johns Hopkins Baseball Preview
BALTIMORE, MD- The Johns Hopkins baseball team enters the 2016 season with lofty goals. After winning a 13th Centennial Conference Championship and finishing third at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional in 2015, the Blue Jays are looking to go one step farther this year. Head coach Bob Babb and his team have their sights set on a regional championship and a spot in the 2016 NCAA Division III World Series in Appleton, WI.
Hopkins will begin its 2016 slate with a challenging set of games before the team’s annual spring break trip to Ft. Myers, FL. The Blue Jays are slated to play a pair of games against SUNY Cortland, the reigning Division III National Champions. Other tough, early-season contests against Alvernia, Keystone and Salisbury will force the Jays to be ready to compete from day one. “The beginning of our season is as tough as any schedule in the country,” Babb said. “It will force us to compete every game and show us what we need to do to play better as the season progresses.”
Upon returning from nine games in as many days over spring break in Ft. Myers, the Jays will play a set of home games before Centennial Conference play opens up in early April. “We are excited to take advantage of our beautiful home stadium this year,” Babb added. Last season, in the inaugural season on Babb Field at Stromberg Stadium, Hopkins finished 13-2 at home.
Babb feels his squad will be well prepared by the time Centennial Conference play begins. Last season, Hopkins finished 13-4-1 in CC action and earned the top seed in the conference tournament. After dropping the first game, the Jays battled back to win four straight to earn the program’s first Centennial title since 2011.
With seven starters and a majority of their pitching staff returning, the Blue Jays are once again the favorite to hoist the Centennial trophy in early May. Babb hopes that the team’s experience meshes well with a solid class of newcomers to extend the season into Memorial Day Weekend at the Division III World Series.
“I expect our pitching staff to be deeper than ever,” explained Babb. “Our pitching is definitely a big strength, and it should give us the opportunity to compete in every game.” Babb will rely on Carter Burns, Nick Burns and Trevor Williams to lead the rotation throughout the season. One question mark is the availability of Jake Enterlin, who has been battling back from an injury for the duration of the offseason. The aforementioned foursome combined for 20 wins on the mound in 2015, while striking out 183 hitters.
The Blue Jays will also count on reliable senior Ross Lazicky out of the bullpen to help late in games. Lazicky led last year’s pitchers with 17 appearances, all out of the bullpen, and struck out 24 batters in 22.1 innings.
Babb has also been impressed by a number of freshmen pitchers who have shown great potential to help immediately. A pair of Texas natives, Preston Betz and Harrison Folk, looked great in the fall and will be joined by classmates Wyatt Lam and Sean McCracken as rookie arms who could see time on the mound this spring. Another freshman, Josh Hejka, is a submarine pitcher who will challenge batters with a different look out of the bullpen.
The Blue Jays return a pair of catchers in Ryan Orgielewicz and Mitch Weaver, who each saw a wealth of time behind the plate and at DH last season. The duo combined for 49 hits and 32 RBIs in 2015 and will be the team’s top two options at catcher again this spring. David Mampre and Alex Darwiche will provide depth at the backstop position.
For the third consecutive year, Conor Reynolds will lead the Jays’ defense from the shortstop position. Last season’s Centennial Conference Tournament MVP will look to improve off a sophomore campaign where he hit .388 with 13 doubles, two triples and four home runs. Reynolds also proves to be a threat on the base paths, successfully swiping 33 career bases in 36 attempts.
Joining Reynolds in the middle infield will most likely be Raul Shah or Joe Conlon, who will compete for the starting spot at second base. Shah hit .272 last season with 15 RBIs in 81 at bats, while Conlon was .297 with five doubles in 37 at bats.
The corner infield positions will also each see two players competing for playing time. Mike Smith, who hit .308 with nine doubles, two home runs and 26 RBIs in 2015, and Pete Siciliano will challenge each other at third base. Across the diamond, it will be Daniel Albert and Jake Rogers competing at first base. Albert started 26 games a year ago and hit .361 with four home runs and 26 RBIs, while Rodgers missed most of 2015 with an injury.
“I’m a little concerned about our infield depth, but if our guys stay healthy we will be in a good spot around the diamond,” Babb said. “These guys have proven that they are more than capable of helping us win games.”
While the Jays’ infield depth is a question, Babb is confident he has plenty of different outfielders he can rely on.
Thomas Mee and Brian Lin are both coming off great sophomore seasons and will lead the outfield this spring. Lin started in centerfield in 2015, but was replaced by Mee after an injury. The duo, which combined for 68 hits, 14 doubles and 31 RBIs last season, will also provide a spark at the top of the Jays’ batting order along with Reynolds.
The third outfield spot is up for grabs and predicts to come down to either Jon Hayden, Zach Jaffe, TJ Gordon or newcomer Tim Kutcher. Hayden and Gordon each started five games last season, while Jaffe saw action in 14, primarily off the bench.
2015 Centennial Conference Preseason Poll
1 - Johns Hopkins - 78 (6)
2 - Franklin & Marshall - 70 (3)
3 - McDaniel - 58
4 - Gettysburg - 52
5 - Ursinus - 51
6 - Haverford - 37 (1)
7 - Dickinson - 36
8 - Washington College - 32
T9 - Muhlenberg - 18
T9 - Swarthmore - 18