Baseball looking to rebound in 2015
By Carl Straut-Collard
Feb. 3, 2015
The University at Albany baseball team is heavily preparing for the 2015 season under head coach Jon Mueller after going 12-33 last year and recording the least America East wins (seven) since joining the conference in 2002. In now his 16th year as head coach, Mueller describes this year as being a new challenge for him and his staff.
“It’s a unique year for me,” said Mueller. “It’s a different type of season because we’ve made the tournament so many years in a row and we didn’t make it last year. This is a wake-up call for the staff and I like where we’re going with the challenge so far.”
Mueller believes the great strides he sees in the weight room, the developed relationships among players, and the essentials on the team for pitching improvement demonstrate this team’s ability to compete with every program in the conference.
When asked what the biggest question mark was for the team heading into the season, Mueller’s unanimous answer was the pitching and its effectiveness throughout the year.
“We need some guys to step forward on the mound,” said Mueller. “We want guys attacking the strike zone. It comes with maturation, getting older, learning from mistakes, and from opportunity or health. There are a number of variables that you put into that stew that help manufacture a pitching staff.”
Leading the way for this year’s staff is junior southpaw Brendan Ryan after posting a 3.28 ERA over 42.6 innings pitched last season. Senior righty Cameron Sorgie and sophomore righty Stephen Woods are projected to follow behind in the rotation.
According to Mueller, only Ryan achieved his goals of the 15 pitchers on this team from last season. Mueller said it would be “encouraging” if those pitchers who didn’t meet their goals can just perform on an average level. With the high velocity pitchers and high profiled guys on the roster, Mueller is confident about the direction his team and program is going.
“We can certainly cause some major problems in the conference if we stay healthy and play smart,” said Mueller. “This is probably one of the fastest teams I’ve ever had position player wise.”
Improving in nearly every position from last year, Mueller has his eyes set on the pack of new players, several of which will begin the season in the starting nine. Among the new guys starting is sophomore outfielder Eric Mueller, junior outfielder Will Miller, junior shortstop Trevor DeMerritt, junior second baseman Karson Canaday, and freshman third baseman John Banes.
The Great Danes are also fortunate to have nine players returning from last season, including junior designated hitter Evan Harasta who batted .314 in 2014 and tied for the second most RBIs on the team with 28, and 2015 captains Craig Lepre and Matt Hinchy who look to keep their teammates on the same page.
“There’s a reason Craig and Matt were unanimous vote getters for captains,” said Mueller. “They are well liked teammates who can be disciplined and serious with the guys whenever they need to be.”
Mueller’s coaching staff and his two captains are continuing to instill a culture that this program has owned for years, one of discipline and commitment.
“Getting up and practicing at six in the morning sets the stage for what’s coming,” said Mueller. “It takes determination, it takes dedication, and it’s a great way to bring our players together.”
The 2015 schedule is set for 55 games, including 21 home games and two tournament appearances in South Carolina and Delaware to begin the season. The pair of early tournaments will include hefty opponents in North Carolina State, Georgia Tech, FIU, and Delaware.
In the regular season UAlbany will oppose routine school rivals in Marist, Maine, UMass Lowell, Stony Brook and UMBC. The Danes are still looking for their first America East tournament championship since 2007 when Mueller took the program to their first and only NCAA Regional Tournament.
“Every year our goal is to get back to that Regional. For right now, the best thing we can do is prepare for what lies ahead,” said Mueller.
“We’re going to hike up our pants a little more, strap on our boots, and go to war. We have a very determined group that will be underestimated come game day.”