Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

Huskies baseball poised for promising campaign

Patrick Higgins

Posted on March 07, 2016 in Sports
By USM Free Press

By Nick Beauchesne/Sports Editor

The University of Southern Maine baseball team began practice a few weeks back. Despite the relatively warm winter weather everyone has been enjoying this year, the team has, as of yet, been unable to get outside and get to work on the field. As a result, the sound of popping gloves and bats-on-balls can be heard echoing throughout USM’s fieldhouse. Along with these familiar sounds are other sounds equally familiar for a program of such sustained success: the talk this preseason is that this team looks poised to make another run at the Division III World Series.

This year’s squad is made up of a unique combination of youth and experience that promises to be fun to watch. Seven seniors, led by last year’s National Player of the Year Sam Dexter (senior, Oakfield, ME/Messalonske) are eager to improve upon last year’s 32 and 15 record and recapture some of the magic that led the Huskies to the national championship game two years ago.

“Several of this year’s veteran players contributed to our World Series run two years ago,” said head coach Ed Flaherty, who has compiled 911 wins in his 30 year coaching career.

The experience of playing and winning at the highest level of postseason baseball, is an attribute that should serve the team well during the moments of adversity that arise over the course of every baseball season.

Pitchers Shyler Scates (Jefferson, ME/Erskine Academy), Dan Kinnon (Londonderry, NH) and Ryan Browner (Georgetown,) will provide senior leadership for the pitching staff. These veteran pitchers, combined with a strong core of underclassmen arms, are an example of the depth that USM has up and down their roster.

Along with the senior class, several promising freshman will be called upon to contribute this year. 28 of the 37 spots on the roster this year are filled by freshmen and sophomores. This youth throughout the roster provides both challenge and promise. Having so many younger players gives the program an opportunity to build for the future while also competing at the highest level in the present. The Huskies have been named the preseason favorites in the LEC, a testament to the strength of the players returning, as well as the promise of those looking to break out.

Redshirt freshman Dalton Rice (Waterford, ME/Oxford Hills) looks ready to break into the pitching rotation as one of many underclassmen expected to establish themselves in the always difficult Little East Conference. At 6’4, Rice’s combination of heat and off-speed stuff has the coaching staff excited to see him take the mound.

“He (Rice) is as good as I’ve seen as a freshman,” coach Flaherty said.

Rice, along with several other pitchers, will be tasked with filling voids in the pitching staff due to injuries. Of the several injuries, perhaps the most challenging to overcome will be the loss of senior Tyler Leavitt (North Andover, MA) who is out for the year with a torn UCL that requires Tommy John surgery. Leavitt’s experience (2014 LEC Pitcher of the Year and winner of multiple World Series games) will undoubtedly be a challenge for USM.

Along with the loss of Leavitt for the season, USM must find a way to replace the production of last year’s National Pitcher of the Year Andrew Richards, who graduated last spring.

The Absence of Leavitt and the graduation of Richards leave vacancies at the top two spots of the Huskies’ rotation coming into the season. Despite these shakeups, coach Flaherty remains confident that players will step up in their stead:

“Every year at the beginning of the season we ask ourselves whether or not the team is capable of making it (to the World Series)” Flaherty Said.  “Last year I would have said no, but this year you can’t say no to the possibility. We are capable, if things work out, of doing something special this year.”

The team will get a good gauge of where they are when they leave for Florida next week to play nine games over the course of a ten-day trip. This annual journey south is an opportunity for the team get experience playing outside, against quality competition, before they enter the grind of LEC competition.

When they return, the regular season will be waiting for them. With it comes an opportunity to do something special this year.

 

 

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