One team, one goal: Liberty League Championship or bust

Sophomore pitcher Robert Winkelmann throws some heat. Winkelmann is part of the Brewers’ thinly manned pitching staff, and will have to work twice as hard in the four game weekends this season. Photo By: Vassar Athletics
Sophomore pitcher Robert Winkelmann throws some heat. Winkelmann is part of the Brewers’ thinly manned pitching staff, and will have to work twice as hard in the four game weekends this season. Photo By: Vassar Athletics
Sophomore pitcher Robert Winkelmann throws some heat. Winkelmann is part of the Brewers’ thinly manned pitching staff, and will have to work twice as hard in the four game weekends this season. Photo By: Vassar Athletics

Hopes are high for the Vassar Baseball team this 2015 season. Last year the baseball team saw its best winning record, finishing the 2014 season with a 19-14 spread. Coming off their second year of participating in the Liberty League Tournament, pre-season prognostic polls predict the Brewers will find success again this year.

The team was picked for the fourth slot in the league, totaling 50 points, only six points behind the projected winners from the University of Rochester. In addition to the impressive point total, the Brewers also had one first-place vote cast in their favor. Union College took the second slot with 55 points, with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute coming in third at 51 points. The preseason poll a year ago had the same result, also putting the Brewers in fourth.

The team has a good chance of building on their success, as four All-Liberty League first-team performers are returning: sophomore pitchers Adam Erkis from Villanova, PA and Trent Berg from Milton, MA, juniors Nick Johnson from San Francisco, CA and Brooks English from Milton, MA. In 2014, nine players actually were on the All-Liberty team, and players from Vassar were named all-conference Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year. Both accolades were a first for the Brewers – signifying a lot of success to come. Four seniors were bid goodbye at the close of last season, but some young talent has certainly stepped up to take their pace. Ten starters will return this 2015 season with coach Jon Martin entering his 10th year.

So far the Brewers have an overall record of 1-5. Their only games have been at the Russmatt Central Florida Invitational on their Spring break trip down south. The team lost to Hope College 18-4 and Clarkson University four times, 1-5, 2-5, 5-6, and 4-10. The Brewers came out on top against Southern Vermont College, taking it to 10 innings and pulling out a 13-9 victory.

There is diversity in age with Coach Martin’s picks for captains, as seniors Kyle Casey from San Diego, CA, Dan McCormack from Nashua, NH and Jason Garfinkel from Encino, CA as well as English will all serve this season. All four captains were All-Liberty League team members last year and will provide equally important physical performances this year, as well as offering their vocal leadership to help the Brewers in 2015.

The team is focused on one goal. Said Coach Jon Martin, “Our main goal during the regular season is pretty much the same every year: Get back to the Liberty League Tournament. Period.” English concurred, saying, “My goal for the season is to make the Liberty League Championship for the third year in a row.” And as the preseason poll has it, the Brewers will likely achieve this end.

As far as Martin is concerned, digging and working hard is what will ultimately get VC Baseball where it wants to go. “We are working hard everyday to get back there. The team understands that hard work and dedication will pay off in the end. We are mentally tough and welcome a challenge.”

“Our strength is our unity as a whole and our diversity as a team. This is a very tight knit clubhouse and we have a good time playing the game we love. It’s a fun team and at the same time a challenging team to manage, mainly because we have so many guys that can play different positions. Trying to find the right combination involves taking some risks early in the season. We are blessed with a few utility players, so there are several options and all of them are strong ones” said Martin. Many players are multi-talented and well-versed in different positions, which many have identified as one of the Brewers’ most important strengths with this roster.

“Our biggest strength is our offense. We have one of the best lineups in the liberty league and have consistently shown the ability to hit. Our biggest weakness is pitching depth, but we are working hard to develop new arms” said English.

As far as weaknesses for the 2015 squad, Martin said, “Our biggest obstacle up to this point is the weather and getting in a routine. It’s been a tough winter and we need to be outside on a field to get the most out of workouts, especially at this point in the season.” The weather has not been very forgiving for spring sports, and snow has impacted the baseball schedule so far. The Liberty League double header set to be held in Saratoga Springs against Skidmore College and RPI as well as the season openers against New Paltz and Plymouth State University were cancelled due to snow.

English sees a weakness in depth, particularly where pitching is concerned. He said, “Playing 4 games a weekend, it is tough to have enough arms for the last game.”

As their season gets to a slow start, Martin firmly believes that all of their opponents will be formidable. “Any Liberty League opponents are always the toughest. Playing a 4 game series is always tough, no matter who you are playing” he said. Added English, “Our toughest matchup will likely be union, Rochester, RPI, and Clarkson.”

Obstacles aside, there is a lot of excitement buzzing around the Brewer locker room. English is most looking forward to “competing for a league championship.”

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