With the baseball team’s first game only two weeks away, the team prepares and looks forward to its upcoming season.
“I think our team has a good shot to compete for the Patriot League this year,” head coach Sean Leary said. “We have enough returning depth, and that’s why we play. You want to get to the NCAA regionals, you want to win your conference and move on. I think this team has the ability to do that.”
The team’s season begins on Feb. 15 as the team travels to North Carolina to take on Duke for a three-day series against the Blue Devils.
“Duke’s definitely a good team,” senior pitcher Cole McManimon said. “But, we’ve improved in years past. We deserve to be there, and no doubt we’ll be prepared.”
Leary said the team has been working hard since its season ended last May, and they are now getting in the right mindset before game day.
Sophomore pitcher Cameron Van Hoorebeke said that each day the pitchers have been going to the Lehigh facilities and practicing their pitching in order to make sure they are prepared for the first game.
“In the years I’ve been here, this team has the potential to be the deepest pitching staff we have,” Leary said. “We have a couple of arms who were pretty significant draft prospects this spring. There’s depth in both the starting rotation and in the pen, which is definitely our strength heading into the season.”
All of Lehigh’s pitchers have been working hard to perfect their game during the preseason. In the offseason, Lehigh hired a new assistant coach Dan Gusovsky.
“Pitching staff is one of the biggest things, and getting the new pitching coach has been a huge help,” Van Hoorebeke said. “He has everyone on a strict program that’s really good and that everyone’s been following.”
In addition to Gusovsky, A.J. Miller returned as the team’s hitting coach who helped the team’s hitting become nationally recognized in years past.
Another new addition will be the latest freshman class, who have been nationally ranked and recognized by Baseball America.
“It’s a very talented group,” Leary said. “And that’s why we are excited about the blend of returning guys coming in, and we got national recognition for that freshman class. It’s well-deserved, they’re some pretty talented kids.”
Leary said that he foresees some freshmen being in the starting lineup. Although the lineup is not finished, the coaching staff has a pretty good idea of who is going to be in it. He said that once players get 30 at-bats in during the season, he is able to get a good sense of the top players who should be part of the lineup.
“I think our challenge will be getting our continuity of the lineup in a defensive alignment for the first three or four weekends,” Leary said. “A little bit of that is still a work in progress.”
Due to the cold temperatures and bad weather, the team has been unable to get out onto the field for practice. Leary said that the players have been getting cage work and defensive work in at Lehigh’s indoor facilities.
“We are so used to (the cold weather), that it’s not something we make an excuse with,” Leary said. “I think you just prepare, but we won’t have a whole lot of team practice. They won’t see a fly ball until game day, but that’s why they work so hard.”
The team will be traveling to away games until March 20, when Lehigh hosts University of Pennsylvania. The Mountain Hawks open Patriot League play March 23 versus Lafayette in a much-anticipated series for both McManimon and Van Hoorebeke.
With the season starting soon, strong veterans and new additions provide the team members with an optimistic outlook for the upcoming season.
“I want to put a ring on my finger,” McManimon said. “There’s always that aspect to it, and I’ve only one more shot to do it. We always say it every year, ‘do it for the seniors’ and now it’s my year.”