The 2014 edition of the York College baseball team is a mix of old and new.
Head coach Mike Scappa is hoping the combination of experience and fresh talent will produce the best team in his three years at the helm of the York program. York was 22-21 overall in 2013 with a 6-9 Capital Athletic Conference mark. That followed a 22-20 season in 2012, when the Spartans were 11-7 in the CAC.
Scappa welcomes back a core of returners, featuring seniors Andrew Hershey and Colbe Herr, along with South Western High School graduates Colin Porter and David Walker.
Hershey headlines the Spartan lineup at the top of the order. The Spartans' center fielder is York's lone returning All-CAC honoree from last spring, when he hit .313 with 29 runs scored, 27 RBIs, 13 doubles and 13 stolen bases. He had a .984 fielding percentage in center and had a .368 on-base percentage at the top of the order.
"Andrew is a force at the top of our lineup as he has a combination of power and speed," Scappa said. "He is a leader for this squad both on and off the field."
Herr is one of the best catchers in the region. He hit a team-leading .363 with 28 runs scored, 17 RBIs and 17 doubles. He boasted a team-best .522 slugging percentage and he also owned a .416 on-base percentage. Herr registered a .990 fielding percentage and threw out 17 runners.
"Colbe is our leader and does a good job of working with our pitchers," Scappa said. "He is also a talented hitter and will hit in the heart of our lineup. I expect him to have a big year."
Porter is the Spartans' starting shortstop and hit .266 with 27 runs scored and 23 RBIs last spring. He drew a team-high 23 walks and finished with a .382 on-base percentage.
"Colin is a solid shortstop with good hands and range," Scappa said. "He gives some punch to the bottom third of our lineup. He has the ability to get on base while he can drive in key runs."
Walker headlines the Spartan rotation. The right-hander went 2-1 with a 3.49 ERA in 38.2 innings last year. He struck out 26. Walker is fully back from injuries he battled as a sophomore and early in his junior year.
"Dave is throwing the ball great," Scappa said. "He is a mature pitcher who will give us a great chance to win every time he steps on the mound."
Lineup: The Spartans' everyday lineup finds experience at a number of positions. In addition to Herr behind the plate, Porter at short, and Hershey in center, the Spartans return J.J. Oleniacz at second, Dallastown High grad Derek Pitzer and Brad Wenzel sharing the first base/designated hitter duties and Hunter Whalen in left. The new Spartans in the every day eight are junior Stephen Miele in right field and freshmen Michael Moore and Scott Steffy at third base. Moore is a Bermudian grad.
Pitzer hit .244 with 18 runs scored and 17 RBIs.
"I like our every day lineup," Scappa said. "It features a bunch of experience and talent. We will have quality at-bats and put ourselves in positions to be successful. I expect us to be efficient and be able to manufacture runs when we need them. I like this group's approach at the dish."
Pitching staff: Walker will be joined in the starting rotation by junior Dan Gurganus, senior Tyler Alexander, freshman Elliot Mortimer and freshman Randy Frankenfield. Gurganus had a challenging sophomore year (2-8, 5.30 ERA), one year after being the CAC's Rookie of the Year as a freshman (5-2, 3.26 ERA). Scappa believes he is primed for a bounce-back junior year.
"Dan was matched up against everyone's No. 1 pitcher last year," says Scappa. "He threw the ball well in the fall and is ready to take a huge stride forward. His breaking stuff is a little sharper this year and that will make all the difference for him."
Alexander went 2-3 last year with a 4.06 ERA in 37.2 innings.
While the Spartan rotation is set, Scappa also has a talented crew of pitchers in the bullpen, including freshman Matt Petersen, who is a York Suburban grad.
"Our pitching staff is as deep from the starters through the closers as it has been in my time here," says Scappa. "We will need to rely on our pitching staff to win for us as our new lineup figures it out."
Scappa also believes this will be his best defensive team.
"Our defense should be very good this year," says Scappa. "We are more athletic in the field than we have ever been. Our pitchers will benefit just because of the quality of our defense."
Outlook: Scappa is excited to see what his squad can do on the field in 2014.
"This is a good team," says Scappa. "Our goal is to compete for a conference championship and return to the NCAA (Division III) Tournament. This team has a good mix of experience and youth. We will need to be patient but if the young guys can compete like I think they can, we should be right in the middle of the conference race."
The Spartans are scheduled to open the season on Saturday at Lynchburg College. York will make its 2014 home debut on March 1 against Rutgers-Camden before heading out to their spring trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C. from March 3-6. The Spartans open up conference play on March 7 at St. Mary's.