The 2014 season for the Susquehanna baseball team should have the Crusaders in an optimistic mood. The team returns its top two starting pitchers, a reliable senior closer and a very promising freshman class.
Head coach Denny Bowers ’00, entering his ninth season at the helm, is aiming to make the Landmark Conference playoffs for the first time since 2011 as SU was picked to finish fourth in this season’s preseason poll.
“We haven’t proven anything yet,” Bowers said on the ranking. “But we will compete on a regular basis and our freshman class is going to be a big help.”
The Crusaders begin the season Sunday, Feb. 23 with a doubleheader at Shenandoah, a team that is receiving votes in preseason polls, and travel to Stevenson on Wednesday, Feb. 26.
In Fort Pierce, Florida, SU plays strong competition including No. 23 Misericordia, La Roche and Arcadia.
The first Landmark Conference series of the year is at Juniata, starting with a doubleheader on March 15.
The Crusaders have an eight-game homestand from March 22-30 and close out the regular season with nine of their final 12 games at Harold Bollinger Field.
Junior Spencer Hotaling (Selinsgrove, Pa. / Selinsgrove Area), a second team All-Landmark selection in 2013, threw 60.1 innings with 45 strikeouts, seven complete games and two shutouts with a 2.69 ERA last season.
Junior southpaw Casey Hood (Shrewsbury, Pa. / Susquehannock) adds a nice one-two punch for Landmark doubleheaders as these two players showed signs of dominance last season.
The pair threw shutouts against Moravian while Hood shut down then-No. 13 Keystone in Florida. Hood threw 48.1 innings and struck out 43 in 2013.
As for the bullpen, there are several players in the mix including freshmen Brett Newman (Washington Crossing, Pa. / Council Rock North), Bobby Klatt (Leonardo, N.J. / Mater Dei Prep), A.J. Pinto (Bronxville, N.Y. / Fordham Prep) and Liam Conboy (Old Tappan, N.J. / Northern Valley Regional).
The backend of the bullpen is solidified by senior closer Matt Smith (Blue Ridge Summit, Pa. / Wyoming Seminary), who tied the school’s single-season record with seven saves last year. Smith was almost untouchable with a 0.64 ERA in 14 innings, allowing only four hits and striking out 15.
Look for junior Luc Kocher (Middlebury Center, Pa. / Elkland) and freshmen Bobby Wittemann (Warrington, Pa. / Central Bucks South) and Eric Soranno (Watchung, N.J. / Watchung Hills) to earn starts throughout the season.
Rob Marcickiewicz (Red Bank, N.J. / Middletown South) leads this group as the sophomore started 30 games last year and accumulated 20 hits, including six doubles, and 11 RBI.
Newcomers Tom Shields (Chalfont, Pa. / Central Bucks South) and Ben Miller (Columbia, Md. / Hammond) will also see action behind the plate this spring.
Sophomore Chris Ryan (Toms River, N.J. / Toms River North) along with Dylan Jenkins (Glen Mills, Pa. / Bayard Rustin) and Newman will be competing for playing time at first base as well as designated hitter.
Sophomore Bryan Palsi (Brielle, N.J. / Manasquan) led the team in hits (45), runs (20), RBI (18), doubles (8), total bases (53) and slugging percentage (.427) in his rookie year.
Also in the mix are newcomers Jimmy Kinneally (Brielle, N.J. / Manasquan) and Danny Gordon (Fairfax Station, Va. / South County).
Among the returners are Dylan Glassmire (Doylestown, Pa. / Central Bucks South), who hit .313 with 36 hits, five doubles, one home run and 17 RBI as a freshman, and Nick Kennedy (Brookeville, Md. / Good Council), who had 25 hits, 10 RBI and 11 stolen bases a year ago.
Senior centerfielder Ty Raubenstine (Elizabethville, Pa. / Upper Dauphin Area) leads this group. After being named Second-Team All-Landmark in 2012, Raubenstine enters the season with 112 career hits and 360 career at-bats, both top-20 in program history.
Bowers expects Taylor Luckenbill (Pottsville, Pa. / Nativity BVM) and Nick Marini (High Bridge, N.J. / Voorhees) to make immediate impacts.
Senior Greg Stellon (Chadds Ford, Pa. / Tatnall School) and juniors Kyle Semmel (Burlington Twp., N.J. / Holy Cross), Jared Musilli (Branchville, N.J. / High Point Regional) and Mike Rucereto (Washington Twp., N.J. / Bergen Catholic) provide additional depth at this position.