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Pitching will be a Spartan strength

After watching the Husson University Eagles complete a three-run comeback with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning in the North Atlantic Conference championship game last May, the Castleton State College baseball team is ready to get back to work and push its way back to glory.”We’ve certainly got a lot of work to do [to get back to the top],” Shipley said. “We are very much a work in progress.”

With plenty of new faces, one of the first things the Spartans will have to do is actually come together as a team. The 2010 team will feature 17 new players and 15 returners.

Among the key returners is Matt Eisenhuth, who led Castleton’s stacked offensive lineup last season with a .412 batting average. He also drove in 40 RBI’s and had five round trippers. Even though Eisenhuth will be important to help the team offset losing five of its top 10 offensive producers, Shipley believes strongly that the offense will have numerous key contributors this season.

“[Offense] is always a work in progress, but with repetition and regularity, [the hitting] will come around. I think we have a lot of nice pieces offensively, but we need to work hard,” he said.

Pitching, however, is all set, Shipley said.

Senior pitcher Ken Cook, who was selected as a New England Intercollegiate Baseball Association All-New England First Team pitcher last season, will again anchor the top of the rotation as the ace of the staff.

“If he stays hungry and healthy this season, he’ll be pretty good for us again,” Shipley said.

Cook will look to improve upon last year’s impressive 7-2 record, which tied a school record for wins in a season, and his 2.04 ERA, which ranked him 21st in the country.

The rest of the Castleton rotation will be rounded out by returners Billy Sisko, Tyler Erickson, and Brandon Fay.

Along with pitching, Shipley said defense will be another strength. The only question marks are shortstop, second base and first base.

The fight for shortstop is down to sophomore David Brandt and freshman Cameron Curler. There will also be a fight for first base between Garrett Brewer and Cesar De La Cruz as Ted Mills, who played the position well last season, will make his new home behind the plate. As it looks now, freshman Ryan Zeilinski will take over at second base.

Shipley says that the team will be able to “pinpoint” what they need to do at those positions more accurately when they make the trip to play in Virginia starting on Mar. 12

Shipley also said all of the teams in the NAC will be tough competition. Castleton’s biggest obstacle this season will undoubtedly be Husson University, who Castleton will face four times in the crucial last six games of the season. “I think the players do want [to get back at Husson] this season,” Shipley said. They’ve got that in their minds.