Baseball: Potomac State to lean on chemistry for 2017
|Joe LaRocca returns to anchor the Potomac State Baseball infield for the 2017 season.|
Catamounts open season Saturday at Pepsi Invitational in South Carolina
By Roy Harper- Potomac State College
Keyser, WV- When the Potomac State baseball team opens the 2017 season this Saturday, they will do so with the weight of the past on their shoulders. The Catamounts have had plenty of past success, winning the Region XX Championship 12th times in 17 years and reaching the Junior College World Series on four occasions.
Potomac State College Head Baseball Coach Doug Little knows that each new season really has nothing to do with the past. So, one year after going 30-22, and finishing as the Region XX runners-up, Little knows that if this year’s team is to have success it will have to be a team effort.
“There have been years where we have had some more talented players,” said Little. “But I think this team has really bought into the fact that the team comes first. While we may lack some experience, this group has worked hard and are ready for the season to get started.”
In the last three seasons Potomac State Baseball has sent ten players onto NCAA Division I programs, so Little knows that experience may be in short form as the Catamounts open during his 20th season at the helm.
“It is the nature of Junior College Baseball; some years we have a lot of players returning and others you do not,” said Little. “We have some returning guys who we will count on, but I also think we have some good young players we can run out there.”
“We will again be young on the mound; so we are going to have to find a way to gain some experience,” said Little. We will most certainly get tested the first two weekends of the season.
On back-to-back weekends to open the season PSC will travel to Florence, SC for the Pepsi Invitational hosted by Florence Darlington Tech. The combined wins of Catamount’s opponents in their first six games was 208 games in 2016.
Set to open the season at the top of the rotation will be a pair of freshman in right-handers Tanner Skidmore, (Timberville, VA) and Michael Livingston, (Frostburg, MD). The third starter will be sophomore Andrue Hughart (Coal City, WV).
“Those three guys have all improved since the fall and give us a chance to win if they pitch well,” said Little.
The Catamounts also have a handful of pitchers that will pitch in relief that Little thinks can eat up some innings.
Right-handers Hunter Stafford, (Gerrardstown, WV), Jeff Wong, (Charleston, WV), Josh Macat, (Lytle, TX) and Sam Aloi, (Bridgeport, WV) will make up a strong relief core that Little knows will need to be successful.
“You are not always going to get a complete game on the mound,” said Little. “The game now requires that you have quality arms out of the bullpen.”
Additional arms that will be counted on are: Josh Zeboskey, (Stephenson, WV), Brad Davis, (Ranson, WV) and two-way players, Brandon Gochenour, (Crimora, VA), Sebastian Williamson, (Oley, PA) and Seth Wright, (Grafton, WV).
Offensively, the Catamounts lack of experience continues as just one full-time starter returns from last season, infielder Joe LaRocca, (Bridgeport, WV).
LaRocca hit .301 and played in 50 games last season. The sophomore drove in 35 runs, with eight doubles and three home runs, and will man one of the infield positions in 2017.
“Joe is a quality player and will be counted on heavily to shoulder the load offensively,” said Little.
Sophomore David Delawder, (Paw Paw, WV) played in 33 games last season and will man either first or third base this year. Delawder drove in 20 runs and hit two home runs in 2016.
Five other sophomores will go from role-players last season to being asked to be major contributors to the Catamounts success this season.
Brock Bonadio, (Connellsville, PA) will open the season as the second baseman, while Brock Smith, (Amissville, VA) 1st base, Texas Cobb, (Charles Town, WV) catcher, and Bryce Crawford, (Woodbridge, VA) outfield will compete for staring spots. Gochenour switches roles this season after spending last season on the mound, as he will open the 2017 campaign as the starting right fielder.
“When you talk about these guys, you are talking about how you can develop yourself in a program like this,” said Little. “It’s amazing how much of a difference a year can make- these guys have worked very hard and I expect them all to have a great season.”
Little also has a group of talented freshman that will be thrown right into the mix on the opening weekend.
The Catamounts will start three freshmen up the middle on Saturday. Dominic Peroni, (Uniontown, PA) will open at shortstop, while Alex Taylor, (Laurel, MD) will man centerfield and Mitchell Henshaw, (Brockport, NY) will start behind the plate.
On days Henshaw is not catching Little will turn to Cobb and freshmen Justice Keener, (Grafton, WV) and Tanner Lambert, (Morgantown, WV).
“We have quite a bit of talent in our freshman class,” said Little. “The young guys will push the older guys and all of that competition is good for us.”
Freshmen Zach Musgrove, (Grafton, WV) and Williamson will also get time at both outfield corners, while Ryan Roell, (Pittsburgh, PA) will garner some time as the designated hitter.
“All these guys bring something to the table and can help us win,” said Little. “Our lineup may take a while to figure out, but we feel like we have some options and can put nine solid hitters out there that will compete and give us success.”
That success Little is referring to is quite impressive. In the last 17 years, Potomac State has claimed the Region XX Division I Baseball Championship 12 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 2017?
“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 hardworking group and this group has really bought into the fact that the team comes first. They play hard for each other and really get along. That chemistry is not always easy to achieve.”
“I am convinced that we can have as much success as we want as long as we play together, continue to improve and come to play each day.”
“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 even though that I say this every year I believe this is one of the toughest schedules we have ever put together- especially the first three weeks.”
Potomac State will hope for an early home opener with a twin bill at Golden Park on March 1 with CCAC South. Then after a five-game series in Myrtle Beach, SC, the Catamounts return home for eight straight games.
"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 2017 Potomac State Baseball schedule, click here.