Potomac State Baseball 2015 Season Preview

Pitching Depth will be key to Catamounts’ Season

Catamounts open season Saturday at Pepsi Invitational in South Carolina

Dalton Westfall
Dalton Westfall is one of several returning pitchers that will lead the way for Potomac State College in the 2015 season.  Photo by Raymond Burner.

By Roy Harper- Potomac State College

Keyser, WV- Perhaps there is no adage in baseball older than this one: pitching and defense win championships.

Potomac State College Head Baseball Coach Doug Little knows this very well. As the 2015 season is about to get under way he know that the adage is not only true, it may be entirely necessary.

Losing seven of nine position players from last year’s team that won 38 games, Little know the Catamounts will lean heavily on an experienced pitching staff, at least early on in the 2015 campaign.

Last season despite being the fifth best hitting team in all of NJCAA Division I, it was not enough to repeat as the Region XX Champions as Harford Community College outslugged the Catamounts to claim their second title in three years.

The 18-year veteran at PSC knows that the arms that return in 2015 gained valuable experience last year and now the focus switches to them.

“Our pitchers realize that the pressure is on them,” said Little. “We have some hard-nosed guys who are willing to wear that label of having the emphasis put on them.”

Leading the way for the Catamount pitching staff will be a pair of right-handed sophomores, Dalton Westfall and Evan Mitchell.

Westfall, (Buckhannon, WV) logged the most innings of any returner with 65 innings last season. He finished the year with a record of 7-3 with 47 strikeouts and 30 walks in 12 games started. Westfall has signed with the University of Tennessee-Martin for next year.

Mitchell, (Lynchburg, VA) went a perfect 6-0 last season with 46 K’s and 28 walks in 41 2/3 innings of work. Mitchell has signed on to attend at Liberty University for the 2016 season.

Evan Mitchell
Evan Mitchell

“Those two guys will be heavily relied upon,” said Little. “They both have a high ceiling and continue to work hard at getting better.”

Little can also turn to a quartet of experienced sophomore arms to round out the starting rotation.

"We have a good collection of arms that I think can do some good things. If they can learn to compete and command the lower strike zone they will give us a good chance to win."

Kyle Elliott, (Paden City, WV) went 4-0 last year, while Matt Maiers, (Romney, WV), Kyler Brown, (Newville, PA) and Drew Hemminger, (Somerset, PA) each picked up three wins apiece last season.

Little is also hopeful that Sam Vincenzo, (St. Clairsville, OH) can return to form of two years ago after missing all of last season with an arm injury.

 

A trio of freshmen southpaws Chris Schleuss, (Martinsburg, WV), Zach Smith, (Fredericksburg, VA) and Ryan Kelchner, (Mt. Airy, MD) have been impressive thus far this spring and will push to log serious mound-time for PSC.

“If we plan to be successful this year, that group of sophomores will have to take the lead and the freshmen will need to contribute. I am confident that they will step up and accept the challenge,” said Little.

That success Little refers to is quite impressive. In the last 15 years, Potomac State has claimed the Region XX Division I Baseball Championship 11 times including four Eastern District Championships and four trips to the Junior College (JUCO) World Series in Grand Junction, Colorado.

Can the Catamounts make another World Series run in 2015?

“I’m not sure. But I really do like our guys,” said Little. “We are by no means the most talented team, but we are a hard working group, and they are focused on being the best team we can. They do what we ask and thus-far they have gone about their business the right way.”

While the experience is more limited in the starting lineup, there is one player Little knows he can pencil in every day.

Andrew Kowalo
Andrew Kowalo

Sophomore Andrew Kowalo, (Wheeling, WV) will be the Catamounts shortstop after spending most of last season patrolling the hot-corner at third base. Kowalo has signed to continue his career with Mitchell at Liberty University.

Kowalo hit .371 last season, banging out 52 hits including 12 doubles, two home runs and 19 runs batted in. While Little hopes Kowalo can reproduce those type of offensive numbers he know the real value Kowalo brings is on defense.

“Andrew is beyond a solid player on defense,” Little added. “He has great range for a player his size, he makes our defense better on a daily basis.”

Kowalo’s double-play partner up the middle will be sophomore Korey Foltz, (Mathias, WV). Foltz hit .372 last season in 21 games of action, including four doubles and 11 runs batted in.

One position in which the Catamounts do return some substantial experience from last season is behind the plate.

Sophomores Daniel Kerwin, (Bradenton, FL) and Eddie Dutkewcyz, (Uniontown, PA) return to handle the pitching staff. Kerwin, hit .316 last season in 30 games, while Dutkewcyz hit .267 in 20 games. Freshman Seth Roadcap, (Elkview, WV) provides depth behind the plate.

At both infield corners, the Catamounts plan to go with a pair of freshmen. Tyler Skidmore, (Bridgeport, WV) is penciled in at first base, while Matt Jeffery, (Morgantown, WV) will get the nod at third base.

Fellow freshmen, Justin Palmer, (Charleston, WV), Marcel Barrett, (Woodbridge, VA) and Teddie Sova, (Hopwood, PA) will provide depth and options for PSC.

In the outfield, only Fraser Brown, (Charles Town, WV) returns. After spending much of last season as a full-time designated hitter, Brown looks to patrol right field this year. Brown hit .308 last year with five doubles, three triples and a home run.

Other than Brown, the outfield group is made up of all freshmen.

Four brand new players are in the mix. Malik Brown, (Fort Meade, FL), DeJhard Kimbrough, (Atlanta, GA), Jack Ricker, (Monrovia, MD) and Russell Schwertfeger, (Bethany, WV) will battle it out for playing time.

“We have some talented young players,” said Little. “You just never know how freshmen will handle it all, but I think there are some solid players that will be okay once they start to figure out the speed of the game and what it takes to be successful.”

 

“We certainly have our work cut out for us this year,” said Little. “We play in one of the toughest Regions and Districts in the country. And I have to believe this is one of the toughest schedules we have ever put together- especially the first three weeks.”

Potomac State begins its 55-game schedule on the road February 14-15 at the Pepsi Invitational Tournament in Florence, SC where the Catamounts will play two games each against Florence Darlington Tech and USC-Sumter.

They return to Florence again the following weekend for week II of the Pepsi Invitational.

Potomac State will hope for an early home opener with a four-game series at Golden Park on March 7 and 8 with Corning Community College.

"We are looking forward to getting started. Our guys have been working hard since August and they know that we will only be successful if we continue to keep up that effort throughout the season," said Little. College baseball is a grind, but this is the part of the year that we look forward to the most."

For entire 2015 Potomac State Baseball schedule, click here.