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Experienced Baseball Squad Prepared to Defend Back-to-Back NESCAC Titles

Experienced Baseball Squad Prepared to Defend Back-to-Back NESCAC Titles

The Wesleyan University baseball team enters the 2016 season as the two-time defending NESCAC champions, and will look to do it again with the help of some elite returners, combined with some standout first-year players.

The Cardinals achieved extraordinary success over the past two seasons with two NCAA appearances, three Little Three titles, a school record for wins (31 in 2014), and a perfect NESCAC record (12-0 in 2015). Despite the departure of five starting position players and three front-line pitchers, this big-game success will be impactful for the experienced returning veterans. Most recently, this group already has shown their potential in beating Yale in their 150th anniversary game this fall.

The Cardinals' depth on the mound will be impactful for a team that was third in the nation in ERA in 2015 (2.70). Leading the way is senior Peter Rantz who went 5-2 with a 2.97 ERA in 60.1 innings. Rantz recorded wins against No. 1-ranked Southern Maine, and No. 2-ranked Amherst in post-season play last year. Junior two-way player Nick Miceli had five saves with 16 strikeouts in 13 innings, while classmates Asher Young and Ethan Rode had clutch performances in the NESCAC championship game.

Senior leader Wilson Flower is poised for a strong season, while starting outfielder Marco Baratta will see time on the mound, and converted pitchers Stephen Howard and Casey Jordan will also contribute. Sophomores Dylan MillhouseBrian Gerner, and Ryan DeLoughry and a host of first-year pitchers will have a chance to significantly contribute in 2016, includingMike McCaffreyDan LombardoDoug HartshornPat ClareEric Simonelli and Kevin Holliday.

"This deep pitching staff will step-right in and continue the amazing success of our pitching program," said Mark Woodworth, who enters his 15th season with the Cardinals.

Four-year starter and two-time NESCAC shortstop Guy Davidson will return to anchor the defense along with junior third baseman Ellis Schaefer. Davidson's home run in the 12th inning of the NESCAC championship game was the winning hit, while Schaefer's standout defense helped Wesleyan have the third best fielding percentage in the nation in 2015 (.971). JuniorWill O'Sullivan played in 20 games and started 10 between shortstop and second base, while freshman Ryan Earle will compete at first base. Versatile infielder/outfielders Jordan FarberA.J. Ferrara and Danny Rose will also vie for spots. Standout hitters Robby Harbison '17 and Beau Butler '18 will be impactful at the plate in 2016.

"Our defensive success performing under pressure has been an essential ingredient of our championship teams," says Woodworth. "An experienced returning core will help us continue that high-level defending."

Senior Marco Baratta is the most experienced outfielder returning, while sophomores Matt Jeye and Cyrus Rothwell-Ferraris will join freshmen Andrew Keith, Evan Hull and Kevin Holliday in a fast, athletic outfield.

Senior Eric Jones and junior Nick Miceli give the Cardinals outstanding catching along with hard-working sophomore Nick Coppola and freshman Nick Valicenti.

"The amazing work ethic of this group continues a legacy of excellence passed down from the leaders of our recent championship teams," says Woodworth. "That is the foundation of sustained excellence for a program, and predicts great things for this year and in the future."

The Cardinals will play one of the best schedules in the nation in 2016, beginning with their two-week trip to Tucson, Ariz. over spring break, before returning back north to play their Little Three and NESCAC games on Dresser Diamond at Andrus Field ? the oldest-continuously played baseball field in the world.

Upon the team's arrival from Arizona, the Cardinals will host nine home games; U.S. Coast Guard Academy (3/24), Eastern Connecticut State (3/30), Endicott (4/3), Middlebury (4/8), Middlebury (DH) (4/9), Williams (4/15), Wheaton (4/26), Amherst (DH) (4/30) and Trinity (DH) (5/7), and will play nine away games; Colby (DH) (4/2), Western Connecticut State (4/6), Salve Regina (4/12), Williams (DH) (4/16), Yale (4/20), Hamilton (4/22), Hamilton (DH) (4/23), Amherst (4/29) and MIT (5/3).