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Retrievers baseball sets out to prove AEC coaches wrong

Last year, the UMBC’s men’s baseball team finished the season with a modest record of 28-23 overall record and an American East Conference record of 13-10. But on Feb. 24, the first day of the new season, all the records and all the statistics of the previous season will lose all importance. On Feb. 24, when the scent of sod and fresh cut grass envelopes the air the only thing that will matter is baseball. When the bases are anchored and the baselines are marked with chalk the only thing on everyone’s mind will be the next pitch as the new season begins.

Despite a lack of postseason wins a year ago and an underwhelming preseason America East ranking there are a multitude of reasons to be optimistic for the Retrievers’ 2017 season.

The Retrievers will retain several key players from a year ago that will certainly help defy the AEC coaches who ranked them fifth. Senior catcher Hunter Dolshun will look to build upon his incredible 2016 campaign where he excelled both in overall and conference play. Dolshun led the team in home runs, runs batted in and slugging percentage while swinging for the second-best batting average in conference play, just behind former Retriever Anthony Gatto.

Meanwhile, sophomore Jacob Christian did not allow a single home run in his 26-innings pitched, all while averaging over seven strikeouts per nine innings. Pitcher Conrad Wozniak was also invaluable in the 2016 campaign to the pitching staff as he earned six wins in his 14 outings while pitching four complete games. Wozniak struck out a team high 57 opponents in his team leading 76 innings.

However, Wozniak, the right-handed pitcher,  is no longer eligible after playing last season as a senior, so the Retriever will be in search for a new workhorse. Wozniak currently holds the team record for the lowest earned run average in a single season and UMBC career. He garnered an impressive 1.48 mark during the 2015 season which, of course, was a valuable contribution for the Retrievers’ postseason run that year while maintaining his record 2.42 career ERA.

It is also vital to note that the Retrievers capped the season with the fourth best record in the conference sitting just half a game behind Stony Brook University and just one game behind the University of Hartford. Additionally, both AEC tournament losses came to teams with losing records and this is perhaps due to faulty outings not indicative of the team’s skill or promise. This lack of success in 2016 is also countered by a fantastic 2015 season in which coach Mumma and the Retrievers were AEC runner ups.

Looking further ahead into the future though, the pitching staff will be further buttressed in 2018, thanks to notable signees Aaron Husson and David Lyskawa, both of whom have received significant praise from pitching coach Liam Bowen. Head coach Bob Mumma will also welcome more newcomers to the roster, including Nick Trabacchi, the sixth ranked pitcher from Long Island, and the third ranked catcher from Maryland and Delaware in Dmitri Floyd.

24 letter winners will also be returning to aid the 2017 campaign and so a lack of optimism for this season is unfathomable. The Retrievers were also a fantastic home team a season ago as they went 16-5 while playing at Alumni Field which should give any fan confidence of their team’s chances.

UMBC will begin their season at the Liberty Tournament in Lexington, S.C., which will likely be an excellent barometer of the team’s success. Conference play on the other hand will not being until March 18 when the Retrievers take on the University of Maine in a three-game series. This Retrievers squad will certainly be exciting and worth the watch in 2017 as they seek to reclaim the success they achieved two seasons ago.