Baseball Team Looks Forward to Spring 2001 Season
Squad to Rely on Strengths of First-Year Players, Seeks to Improve Pitching to Best Last Year’s 10-19 Record
Amidst blankets of snow, cold rain, and biting wind outside, the 2001 MIT baseball team continues to warm up for its March 24 season opener in South Florida with its daily three-hour sessions in Rockwell Cage.
For the Engineers, the facts right now certainly don’t look too promising: only one full-time starter and four experienced upperclassmen return from last season’s underachieving team. That team posted a dismal 10-19 overall record, including a fourth-place NEWMAC finish and a first-round exit from the postseason tournament at the hands of rival WPI. So why on earth has this year’s squad set out with the quiet, laughing-to-oneself confidence reserved for title contenders?
“Every year I’ve been here we’ve talked about how good our chances are of winning our conference,” said co-captain Jeffrey J. Billing ’01, “and we didn’t come close. This time we know the facts say ‘rebuilding year.’ So this preseason the coaches are drilling us hard, and we’re just shutting up and staying really sharp and focused right now.”
Indeed, fifth-year head coach Macdaniel Singleton and his assistants have the T’s working harder than in past years in order to make up for the severe shortage of experience. However, many of the newcomers have shown flashes of talent in addition to their willingness to work. The result is Tech’s growing belief that it can gel and win games sooner than expected.
Providing the leadership for the young squad are P/3B/1B Billing and co-captain CF Alvan Eric P. Loreto ’01. For the fourth consecutive year, Loreto figures to be the primary target for MIT’s opponents after hitting .381, .342, and .360 in his first three collegiate seasons. Billing will see full-time infield action this year for the first time after spending his first three years as a vital cog in the Tech pitching rotation, where he is also expected to be its ace in 2001.
Much-needed experience will also be provided by P/SS/2B Brian S. Nykiel-Furgala ’02 and C John J. Kogel ’03, both of whom showed immense potential in the rough waters of the 2000 season. Nykiel-Furgala brings model consistency and a nasty curveball to the green pitching staff. Kogel is a vocal defensive stalwart from behind the plate who as a rookie showed an ability to generate clutch hits. Even so, both look to contribute even more solidly as they are thrust into full-time roles this year.
2B/LF Jason A. Poff ’02 and 3B/2B Brett K. Klein ’03 round out the list of veterans on the MIT squad looking to have a breakout year.
However, the main ingredient in the recipe for the team’s success remains the performance of its rookies.
Upperclassmen P/IF Bryan P. Perryman ’01, 2B Jonathan A. Coe ’02, and P/1B/OF Robert L. Wieker ’03, in their first year on the team, are showing maturity, poise, and a solid work ethic in preseason workouts. All three are capable of adding firepower to a lineup weakened by the graduation of four .300-plus hitters.
In addition, tremendous offensive promise has been shown by the crop of freshmen, especially P/OF Douglas L. Allaire ’04, OF David J. Ostlund ’04, and OF Edward I. Duggan ’04. MIT will rely heavily on its youngest team members making quick transitions to the pace of the college game.
Yet if Tech hopes to finish anywhere above .500 for the first time since 1998, offense is certainly not the answer. Pitching, which is a traditional weak spot for the T’s, figures to improve. The staff boasts six new arms to chew up quality innings in addition to Billing and Nykiel-Furgala, including a formidable lefty in Allaire.
Another point of emphasis is that MIT must show much more focus on defense: in 2000, MIT committed 39 errors in 29 games, resulting in numerous second chances by opponents. As the saying goes, offense wins games, but defense wins championships. For this year’s Tech squad, a youth movement like this is better off focusing on those games, keeping all the championship talk out in left field.