The Castleton State College baseball team has its work cut out for it as the Spartans get ready to defend their North Atlantic Conference title this season, according to coach Ted Shipley.The team, which went 9-1 in the NAC last season, has a good combination of players, boasting a 32-man roster of 21 returning players and 12 new players.
Even though the team’s roster includes an overwhelming number of returners, Shipley says the team’s biggest weakness is lack of experience.
“We have quite a few players that have not played enough baseball in their lives to be ready and able to compete initially successfully at this level,” he said.
“Through hard work and time, those weaknesses will fade away.”
Despite the inexperience, the Spartans are the team to beat, according to the other NAC coaches. The Spartans ranked first in the preseason poll with four out of the five first-place votes. The poll, though, is something Shipley doesn’t pay attention to at all.
“All coaches realize that where you were picked is nothing more than a popularity contest. All games and how we do will be directly related to actually playing,” he said. “It’s nice for people to think we are good, but we have a lot of work to do before we are good, so rankings or predictions mean very little.”
With the returning Spartan offense and pitching staff, it is no wonder the team was picked to repeat as NAC champions.
The Spartans have four players returning who had a batting average of .300 or better last season, including sophomore Dan Conley, who hit .376 with 1 homerun and 35 RBI.
The rotation looks just as good as the offense, with Rob Turner and Mathew Tuthill, who both had an ERA under 400, returning to lead the staff.
Even with a potent offense and a tough rotation, the Spartans’ lack of experience may be showing already because they are just 1-6 so far in nonconference games this season. The team has been playing games against slightly more competitive teams such as Texas-Tyler, the 12th-ranked team in the country.
“We’ve struggled to play consistent,” Shipley said. “We’ve played very good teams, and we are fairly inexperienced at this point. We have a lot of work to do, and that is exactly what the early games are showing, and it is reflected in our team record.”
The Spartans will look to get back to their winning ways when they begin their NAC play with an away doubleheader against Husson University on March 28.
“I’m already excited. Each game is special and that’s the way we approach things,” Shipley said.