FITCHBURG, Mass. - This season, the Fitchburg State Falcons baseball team have over thirty underclassmen on their roster, but the question is which of the six seniors will step up to the plate?
Second-year Falcons skipper Kevin Barnaby answered it before his team opened their season at the 2017 RussMatt Invitational Tournament in Florida over spring break. His response was simple, as he explained that all six season are important to the success of this team. He went onto elaborate on each of the seniors and what their impending roles may be in 2017.
He began with Andrew Lessard, entering his third season in the Green & Gold. Last year, he appeared in ten games, striking out thirteen in a combined three starts. "We are going to give him a shot as a starter," Barnaby said. "Hopefully he will earn a conference weekend spot moving forward."
In the teams first ten games he saw action in two of them with his best work coming in an inning of relief against Rensselear Polytechnic Institute where he allowed no hits and struck out a batter.
Barnaby moved next to Tyler Smith, a right-hander that has had 39 career appearances prior to the start of this season. At six-foot-six, he is also the tallest member of the team. "He is our best pitchers. We are going to use him in a variety of different ways. We misused him last year and this year we want to be able to use him for outs," said Barnaby. "Our hope is for him to pitch over thirty innings this year. He will be our biggest reliever."
Already in 2017, Smith has been used in a multitude of ways, tossing two innings of relief in his first appearance, coming in for two outs in his second relief-stint on a March 15th double header, and then going the distance, earning his first win of the season to close out the day.
The third and final senior pitcher spoken of by the team's skipper was four-year member Tom Gammell. "He brings back valuable conference expierence from last season. He is competing for the same spot as Lassard is. Tommy will hopefully win a conference spot."
Last year, the Falcons won back-to-back Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) games started by Gammell. On 4/19, he went five innings allowing just one run in a 8-2 win, before getting a no-decision in a 4/27 start against Worcester State where he again pitched five innings.
Barnaby then transistion to his group of seniors in the field with three players suiting up in their last seasons at Fitchburg State.
Sam Brown, a catcher turned first basemen has already seen action in seven of the first ten games, driving in two runs during the trip to Florida.
"Canada!" coach exlaimed his well-known nickname. "He will compete at first base and designated hitter this year. He has a chance to be an RBI guy for us this year. The thump he will provide in the middle of the lineup will help. Sam will be put in a lot of situations where he will pinch hit, bat 5 or 6, and have that ability to hit some runs in. Looking forward for oppurtunities," Barnaby continued.
The next infielder on the ballot was the team's most experienced player, senior infielder Mike St. John. In his four-year career with the team, he has played in 83 games, sporting a career .253 batting average with 11 doubles and 31 RBIs. "He will bat 5 or 6 but like Sam, he is an RBI guy," said Barnaby. "He is a quiet leader. He is always one of the last players leaving the field."
Coach Barnaby rounded out the conversation of seniors with the captain of the Green & Gold, catcher Nathan Littman. "He is a valuable piece behind the plate. He is a hard working, polite kid, and he will bat top 4 spots in our lineup. We have high hopes for him this year. I don't usually name captains but Nate stepped up and earned it," he said.
Last year, he led the team in stolen bases (18) getting caught just five times, and also hit a team-high .355 at the plate – best for seventh in the MASCAC.
It's no question, the biggest fight for this Falcons team will be adjusting the surplus of new players to a program on the rise. This is going to be a challenge for Coach Barnaby in the coming weeks. "We are going to be similar to the way we played last year, but there will be miscues early."
Powered by the group of seniors and accompanied by the young talent, once they get comfortable to college ball, this team is ready to battle for a spot in the MASCAC playoffs - the only way they know how.
Article courtesy of Fitchburg State student journalist Tyler Ansin