North Adams, MA- The MCLA Trailblazer baseball team Is looking to rebound from two consecutive sub- par seasons in which they finished with identical 8-22 records. In 2012, MCLA returns only 10 letter winners from a year ago which means more opportunities to many new faces. The Trailblazers' season kicks off on Friday from Winter Haven, Fl when MCLA will battle SUNY-IT in the RussMatt Invitational.
Led by tenth year head coach Jeff Puleri, MCLA will look to regain its form and become a contender in the MASCAC. With so many newcomers and the veterans returning having little experience, predicting what type of team MCLA will be in 2012 has Puleri a bit puzzled. "I believe we have talent and are working extremely hard to get better, but I'm cautious to outline how so many new faces will perform when gametime approaches," the coach stated.
One player who has the experience is Daniel Gaines. The senior left hander will once again resume his role as staff ace. He led MCLA in innings pitched and victories a year ago. He will be counted on to log key innings and provide the Trailblazers with a spark off the mound. The rotation around Gaines will include fellow senior Rick Massey and sophomore right hander Cody Weaver. Massey has been a grinder on the mound throughout his career, while Weaver has developed into a serviceable right hander. Other Trailblazers competing for innings will be a trio of sophomores in lefty Jared Gersch, right hander DJ Clark, and Joe Vaverka.
The MCLA bullpen should be one of its strengths this season as it will feature quality arms which will offer versatility late in ballgames. Sophomore Ross Miner will lead the charge that will also include Michael Sullivan, Chase Preite, and Rory Slattery.
If there needs to be more evidence of a youth movement, look no further than in the field. MCLA will return only two players with starting experience in outfielders Joe Duncan and Massey. The entire infield will feature new players from a year ago as will the catching position.
Coach Puleri adds that "our flexibility in the field should enable us to be dynamic with late game decisions including runners, pinch hitters, and defensive replacements."
Beginning in the outfield, the aforementioned Duncan and Massey should be regulars. Others battling for the final spot include a host of newcomers in Peter Dassatti, Mike Mancivalano, and Ryan Shewchuk. A crew of sophomores also will be a factor including Jared Gersch, Joe Vaverka, and Cody Weaver.
The infield will feature speed and range as Mike Sullivan and Rory Slattery will battle it out for the starting shortstop position. Freshman Chase Preite and sophomore Derek Lescarbeau will compete for the other middle infield spot. Manning the corners will be sophomores Ross Miner and Sean Coyle at first base, while Weaver and Lescarbeau will see time at third.
Behind the plate, Coyle and freshman backstop Alon Willing will both see action.
MCLA will play a ten game slate in Florida before beginning play up north. They open their schedule up north on March 20th as they travel to play Clark University. MCLA opens conference play on the 31st as they host MMA. The Trailblazers will play a 39 game regular season schedule.