YORK, PA - The 2014 edition of the York College Spartan baseball program is a great mix of old and new. Experience and fresh talent all mixed together in what Mike Scappa is hoping is his best team in his three years at the helm of the York program.
Scappa welcomes back a core of talented returners featuring seniors Andrew Hershey (Lancaster, Pa./Penn Manor), Colbe Herr (Hummelstown, Pa./Lower Dauphin), Colin Porter (Hanover, Pa./South Western), and David Walker (Hanover, Pa./South Western).
Hershey headlines the Spartan line up at the top of the order as the Spartans' centerfielder and their lone returning All-Capital Athletic Conference honoree from last spring. Hershey hit .313 with 29 runs scored, 27 RBI, 13 doubles, a triple and a home run as a junior. He stole a team-high 13 bases in 14 attempts while he had a .984 fielding percentage in center for York. Hershey had a .368 on-base percentage at the top of the lineup for YCP last spring.
"Andrew is a force at the top of our lineup as he has a combination of power and speed," says Scappa. "He is a leader for this squad both on and off the field."
Herr is one of the best catchers in the region. He hit a team-leading .363 with 28 runs scored, 17 RBI, 17 doubles, one triple and a pair of home runs. He boasted a team-best .522 slugging percentage while he also owned a .416 on-base percentage. Not only was he great at the plate, he was solid behind it. Herr registered a .990 fielding percentage while he threw out 17 runners during the year.
"Colbe is our leader and does a good job of working with our pitchers," says Scappa. "He is also a talented hitter and will hit in the heart of our lineup. I expect him to have a big year."
Porter is the Spartans' starting shortstop and hit .266 with 27 runs scored with 23 RBI and four doubles. Porter drew a team-high 23 walks last spring as he finished the year with a .382 on-base percentage.
"Colin is a solid shortstop with good hands and range," says Scappa. "He gives some punch to the bottom third of our lineup. He has the ability to get on base while he can drive in key runs."
Walker headlines the Spartan rotation. The right-hander went 2-1 with a 3.49 ERA in 38.2 innings of work last year. He struck out 26 in his nine appearances with five starts. Walker is fully back from injuries he battled as a sophomore and early in his junior year.
"Dave is throwing the ball great," says Scappa. "He is a mature pitcher who will give us a great chance to win every time he steps on the mound."
The Spartans' everyday lineup finds experience at a number of positions. In addition to Herr behind the plate, Porter at short, and Hershey in center, the Spartans return J.J. Oleniacz (Great Falls, Va./Langley) at second, Derek Pitzer (York, Pa./Dallastown) and Brad Wenzel (Blandon, Pa./Fleetwood Area) sharing the first base/designated hitter duties, and Hunter Whalen (Milford, Del./Milford) in left field. The new Spartans in the every day eight are junior Stephen Miele (Allentown, Pa./Salisbury) in right field and freshmen Michael Moore (East Berlin, Pa./Bermudian Springs) and Scott Steffy (Downingtown, Pa./Downingtown East) at third base.
Pitzer hit .244 with 18 runs scored, 17 RBI, four doubles, a triple, and a pair of home runs in 131 at-bats. Wenzel spent his junior year as a pitcher for the Spartans last year but moves into the everyday lineup after an injury ended his pitching career. Wenzel had an impressive fall campaign that convinced the coaching staff that he could be a valuable member of the everyday eight after leading the team in hitting during the fall.
Oleniacz hit .306 in 36 at-bats last year with nine runs scored and four RBI. He owned a .405 on-base percentage while he was fantastic in the field with a .981 fielding percentage. He will hold down second base this year after having spent most of his time at shortstop. Whalen earned a starting nod after having a strong fall. Whalen is an aggressive athlete who covers a great deal of ground in the outfield. He has worked hard at the dish to develop an efficient and effective approach at the plate.
Miele is a player who Scappa expects to plug into the heart of the line up from the first game of the season. He is an experienced athlete who will play right field and also close the end of games for York.
"Stephen is a big, strong middle-of-the-order hitter with a good approach who makes our offense much better," says Scappa. "He has a great arm in the outfield and will be a pitcher who can come in and close it down at the end of games. We are excited to have him be a part of our team."
Moore and Steffy are both talented players who are very good defensively with good line drive approaches at the plate.
Sophomore Sean Mohollen (Rose Valley, Pa./Strath Haven) suffered an injury in the fall but will have a chance to get at-bats as the designated hitter for the Spartans. Muhollen has been very impressive during the practices leading up to the 2014 season.
"Sean was a guy that we liked in the outfield but he got hurt during the fall season and now is limited to just hitting," says Scappa. "He has a nice compact, line-drive swing."
Senior Russ Patti (Ellicott City, Md./Centennial) gives the Spartans a great backup for Herr behind the dish. He is a great handler of the pitching staff while also provides a little pop at the plate when Herr needs a break. Sophomore Steve Miller (Massapequea, N.Y./Plainedge) gives Scappa extra infield depth and the ability to get some at-bats as a designated hitter.
"I like our every day lineup," says Scappa. "It features a bunch of experience and talent. We will have quality at-bats and put ourselves in positions to be successful. I expect us to be efficient and be able to manufacture runs when we need them. I like this group's approach at the dish."
The pitching staff has Scappa excited as Walker will be joined in the starting rotation by junior Dan Gurganus (Prince Frederick, Md./Huntingtown), senior Tyler Alexander (Hummelstown, Pa./Lower Dauphin), freshman Elliot Mortimer (Whitehall, Pa./Whitehall), and freshman Randy Frankenfield (Blue Bell, Pa./Wissahickon).
Gurganus had a challenging sophomore year, one year after being the CAC's Rookie-of-the-Year as a freshman. Scappa believes he is primed for a bounce back junior year.
"Dan was matched up against everyone's number one pitcher last year," says Scappa. "He threw the ball well in the fall and is ready to take a huge stride forward. His breaking stuff is a little sharper this year and that will make all the difference for him."
Alexander went 2-3 last year with a 4.06 ERA in 37.2 innings of work. He held opponents to a .261 in his 10 appearances with five starts. He had a number of very good appearances for York, as he is ready to help lead the Spartan pitching staff.
"Tyler's numbers don't jump out at you but he really had some great outings last year," says Scappa. "He does a really good job of challenging hitters and pitching efficiently. He is a mature kid who will be a good leader for our staff."
Mortimer and Frankenfield are a pair of freshman with bright futures. Mortimer is a big, athletic right-hander who throws the ball hard. Frankenfield is a talented left-hander who throws three pitches for strikes. He throws the ball with good velocity and isn't afraid to challenge hitters.
"Elliott and Randy are both kids who have the ability to win as freshmen," says Scappa. "I expect both of them to have success and contribute to the rotation this spring."
While the Spartan rotation is set, Scappa also has a talented crew of pitchers in the bullpen. From the left side, Scappa will count on senior Dan McNamara (Southampton, N.J./Seneca), sophomore Matt Goodman (Owing Mills, Md./Franklin), and freshman Matt Petersen (York, Pa./York Suburban). From the right side, junior Zach Philippi (Levittown, Pa./Harry S. Truman) returns as one of York's top hurler out of the pen. Patrick Pittman (Chester Springs, Pa./Downingtown East) and David McGee (Bel Air, Md./John Carroll) are two other right-handers who are key members of the pen.
"I like this bullpen," says Scappa. "We have a lot of guys who throw strikes and attack the hitters. We have some guys who can run it up to the plate with plus velocity. The versatility of the pen will be a key for us this year. We have guys who can match up and get us outs late in the game."
"Our pitching staff is as deep from the starters through the closers as it has been in my time here," says Scappa. "We will need to rely on our pitching staff to win for us as our new lineup figures it out."
Scappa believes this will be his best defensive team.
"Our defense should be very good this year," says Scappa. "We are more athletic in the field than we have ever been. Our pitchers will benefit just because of the quality of our defense."
Scappa is excited to see what his squad can do on the field in 2014.
"This is a good team," says Scappa. "Our goal is to compete for a conference championship and return to the NCAA Tournament. This team has a good mix of experience and youth. We will need to be patient but if the young guys can compete like I think they can, we should be right in the middle of the conference race."
The Spartan schedule features 16 Capital Athletic Conference contests including two games against CAC newcomers Christopher Newport, and PSU Harrisburg while long time conference member Marymount will field a team for the first time in 2014.
The Spartans are scheduled to open the season on February 23 at Lynchburg College. York will make their 2014 home debut on March 1 against Rutgers-Camden before heading out to their spring trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on March 3 through 6. The Spartans open up conference play on March 7 at St. Mary's.