Posted: Mar 12, 2015
In 2014, the Golden Bears finished 19-20-1 overall, and 11-5 in the CCC, securing third place in the conference. In their first playoff matchup, coach Dan Gomez's team squared off against fourth-seeded Salve Regina, winning in walk-off fashion, 7-6. After defeating No. 5 Gordon and No. 2 Roger Williams, the No. 3 Golden Bears came up just short to top-seed Endicott, 5-3, in the conference championship game.
"Last year was a successful season. We fell a little short of our ultimate goal but we were pleased with where the process took us and having the opportunity to compete for our conference championship," he said.
Last year, Gomez became the ninth head coach in Western New England's 47-year old storied program. In 2015, Gomez believes the Golden Bears, led by a core of returning players, will compete at a high level and continue to build off of the success they had in the 2014 season.
Despite losing second-team All-CCC honoree Steve Ambrosino and honorable mention All-CCC pitcher Mike Lospinuso due to graduation, the Golden Bears' returnees will look to pick up where they left off—fighting their way to the top of the conference.
One of WNE's top returnees is senior first baseman Steve Buckley. Last year, Buckley posted a .302 batting average, three home runs and 28 runs batted in to pace the team in the latter two categories while ranking second and eighth in the conference, respectively. He also led the team with 14 extra-base hits, including 10 doubles. Manning first base, Buckley committed only two errors and posted a .994 fielding percentage.
"We have a good amount of returners with experience playing at this level and we're hungry for that championship title, so I expect us to be very successful this year," said Buckley.
Also returning for the Golden Bears is junior Kevin Marciano, who was elected to the second-team All-CCC, at the shortstop position. Marciano batted .377 in CCC-games only, with a third-team-leading 38 hits and team-high 24 stolen bases overall. His defensive prowess (.926 fielding percentage) combined with his offensive production will make him a valuable ingredient in the Golden Bears' formula for success.
"The most important factor that will lead to our success will be playing consistent against all teams we play," said Marciano. "We can't afford to play down to our opponents' level."
Sophomore infielder Daniel Morin picked up an All-CCC second team award at third base in his first year in the program, but his versatility will give Coach Gomez the flexibility to play him in another position. Morin batted .378 in conference games, which was ranked seventh in the CCC.
"I am excited about this year's group. We return a lot of players who gained some valuable experience last year and over the course of the season learned how to win, an experience that should help us a lot this season," said Gomez.
Gomez understands that losing graduating players opens up opportunities for younger guys to step up. Aside from losing players in the lineup, the Golden Bears will miss three starters: Brendan Nugent, Lospinuso and Ryan Skelly, who combined for 25 games started. On the upside, the Golden Bears will look to get innings out of standout senior Trevor Breton, who pitched to a 1.93 earned-run average in nine games last season, going 6-1, while striking out 46 batters. Breton is a three-time all-CCC selection and all-region performer.
"I think our team just has to step up and play baseball the way we know we're capable of playing," said Breton. "We have some guys in our lineup this year that have one more year experience under their belt from the past year which will help."
Junior southpaw pitcher Tom Mahoney, saw action in 13 games last season, and has the experience to provide the Golden Bears with quality outings. In 29.2 innings, Mahoney posted a 2.12 ERA. When called upon to start last season, Mahoney took the mound against Salve Regina and pitched a four-hit complete game in a 10-2 victory.
Expected to join Breton and Mahoney in the Golden Bears rotation are junior David Cherry and sophomore Andrew Mulvey. Cherry, who started three games in six appearances last year, struck out an impressive 22 batters in 23 innings while carrying a 3.91 ERA. His 8.61 strikeouts-to-9 ratio would rank among the CCC's best if he had the required minimum innings.
Out of the bullpen the Golden Bears will have a number of experienced options. Junior Matt Fedor looks to build off a solid 2014 season, posting a 1.21 ERA in 11 appearances. He will be joined by experienced seniors Brian Mazella, Jason Haddy, and Nick Salerno along with sophomores Matt Thomas and Jacques Boilard.
The Golden Bears will look to a couple of returning starters to build of solid 2014 seasons juniors Doug Milne and T.J. Wyrebek were key contributors to the offense in the Golden Bears' second half of the schedule. Milne batted .371 with eight doubles in 70 at-bats. Wyrebek, an infielder, batted .293 in 58 at-bats, and notched a .494 on base percentage.
Junior Scott Hubener will return for the Golden Bears in the outfield, looking to contribute both with his bat and his legs. Appearing in 38 games last season, Hubener was aggressive on the base paths, swiping 13 bags and played a very solid center field. After transferring from Stonehill College, Matt Anziano vied for playing time at the catcher position, and will look to man the backstop again.
Everyone will be fighting for playing time. Coach Gomez stated that all the positions are open, and he believes that every player is capable of filling those slots. Juniors Matt Calzone, Connor Hayes, Brett Morgan and transfer Eduardo Colmenares will be competing for playing time at their respective positions.
In the outfield, Hubener and Milne will be joined by sophomore Kyle Maglio, who picked up 11 hits in 18 games, contending for spots.
Junior outfielder/infielder Chris Casey is in contention to see time in the outfield. An A-plus defender, Casey hit .293 in 31 games. Adding another dimension, he is expected to add depth to the Golden Bears' bullpen.
"The big thing I tell this team is, as a group, we can be great and achieve success," said Gomez.
Western New England's freshman additions will also be vying for playing time this season, too. The Golden Bears added infielders: Jared Rosenblatt and Steve Rivela. In the outfield, Nick Lambert and Carmen Caruso are the team's new additions. Spencer Bassett, Chris Howell and Jake Kawiecki come on as pitchers for the squad.
"All in all, we just have to play our game," Breton said succinctly. "Baseball is simple, score runs, pitch well, and play defense, and you win."
The Golden Bears have 40 regular-season games on this year's schedule, beginning in central Florida for the RussMatt Invitational where they will compete in eight games starting on Friday. The Golden Bears' first conference matchup takes place on March 23rd against the visiting Gordon College Fighting Scots at Trelease Park at Pat Ricci Field.