Spring is in the air. Nowhere more so than on the Toan Track and McCloskey Field, as Lords baseball kicks off its 2018 campaign. With a strong returning senior class, the Lords are hoping to rebound after a 17-23, (6-13) 2017 season.
There will be many familiar faces on the diamond this season. Despite the loss of middle infielder Phillip Nam ’17, who posted a .327 batting average, the Lords return seven seniors and will have a lineup anchored by their established upperclassmen. Top hitters Matt von Roemer ’18, Patrick O’Leary ’20, Matt Contreras ’19 and Max Warren ’18 are all returning. Last year, all four players had at least 90 at bats and batted above .340.
Returning outfielder Mikey Arman ’18 (five home runs, 37 RBIs, .542 slugging percentage) also hopes to have another successful season. Last year, the Lords scored 241 runs and hope to improve their strong offense this year.
While the starting lineup for the Lords will be familiar in 2018, the schedule will not be. This season marks the first year without divisions in conference and also fewer doubleheader weekend series. In previous seasons, the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) was divided into two divisions: east and west.
Teams played every other team in their division four times and only a few teams from the other division over the course of the season. With the scheduling change, the Lords will now face every team in the NCAC and will be playing teams they have not faced in years. The matchup between Wabash College and Kenyon on April 7 will be the teams’ first meeting since 2009, and the game between Denison University and Kenyon on April 17 will be the first since 2013. Both games will be at home on McCloskey Field.
The removal of divisions means fewer weekend doubleheaders and an increased number of important weekday games, according to von Roemer. Additionally, these schedule changes will allow teams to manage their pitchers better sine they wil need fewer arms per weekend. This may lead to lower offensive numbers, as batters will have more exposure to their opponents’ top-of-rotation arms because of the increased rest between games.
In the 2017 season, Kenyon pitchers had an ERA of 6.71, while their opponents had an ERA of 5.97. Fewer weekends of back-to-back doubleheaders means all teams will likely be able to set a pitching rotation, and pitchers will have consistent rest between starts.
Additionally, there will be some new faces on the mound this year for the Lords, including Patrick Craig ’21 and Alex Gow ’21. Also returning this season is Nathan Chandler ’20, who was recovering from Tommy John surgery for the duration of the 2017 season.
Kenyon baseball, which has not had a winning record in conference since 2012, are hopeful this adjustment will allow them to have a more successful winning season, ideally finishing as one of the top four teams in conference.
After playing 12 games over the next two weeks, the Lords open the season at McCloskey Field on March 27 against Muskingum University.