Coming off a 31-21 season (13-11 PSAC), Slippery Rock’s baseball, led by head coach Jeff Messer, was picked to finish third in the PSAC-Western Division preseason polls. Messer has been pushing his team to work hard during the offseason and has high expectations for the 2014 season.
“Across the board, the conference is extremely competitive,” Messer said. “There is not one breakaway team that will be considered dominate over everyone else. With our returning players and some of the others that we’ve picked up, we should definitely make a run for the conference finals.”
The most notable of SRU’s returnees is shortstop and leadoff man Will Kengor, who earned several All-American honors last season and has already been named a first-team member National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Division II Preseason All-America team for the 2014 season.
He put up a .488 batting average last season, with 77 total hits, and 41 runs scored. Kengor has been named team co-captain, along with fellow senior and closing pitcher John Kovalik.
Both captains are excited for the season to begin and each have high expectations.
“Talent-wise this is, hands down, the best team we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Kovalik said. “We have a great group of guys. Everyone’s real close, and there are a lot of hard-workers.”
“This team is very capable of making regionals,” Kengor said. “The team hasn’t made it that far since I’ve been here, so that is a big goal of ours.”
The Rock will benefit from many returning players who play on the field from last season, such as junior infielder Jake Nogalo, senior outfielder Brandon Myers and senior outfielder Jake Weibley. SRU will also be debuting two transfers from Ashland University in Ohio, junior outfielder Adam Urbania and redshirt sophomore first baseman Kyle Vozar, this season.
Although the Rock lost star pitcher Lou Trivino to the MLB draft (Oakland Athletics), Messer is thrilled to have the majority of his pitching staff return.
“John Anderson, Garret Peterson and Kyle Schneider are likely to be our top three starting pitchers,” Messer said. “Anton Constantino, Geoff Sanner, and even freshman Preston Falaschino will all be trying to prove their worth when we determine who our fourth regular starter will be, but each man is very capable.“
The Rock’s baseball season will begin on Feb. 22 with a four game, two-day series with Walsh University (Ohio). They will not have their first home series until they play Indiana University of Pa. in a double header on March 23.