BASEBALL | GU Begins Campaign in NC
Published: Thursday, February 13, 2014
Updated: Friday, February 14, 2014 01:02
This weekend, the Georgetown baseball team will kick off its season in North Carolina with games against Marshall University and Wake Forest on Saturday, and against Towson on Monday.
After finishing last season with a 25-28 overall record and a 5-19 record in the Big East, the Hoyas look to have more success this year in the restructured Big East. Because of conference realignment, the Big East has only seven teams playing baseball this year: Georgetown, Butler, Creighton, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Villanova and Xavier.
“It’s still a very good baseball conference. Still very good baseball teams in that conference,” Head Coach Pete Wilk, who is entering his 14th season leading the Hoya squad, said. “We used to play nine weekend conference series and now we have six, and that’s a big difference. You [have] to fill the other weekends with nonconference foes, and they vary in terms of levels.”
Conference play for the Hoyas starts April 4 against Xavier and runs for six weekends, concluding with a three-game series against Butler from May 9 to 11. The schedule also features intracity games against The George Washington University on March 19 and April 1, as well as the Big East tournament starting May 21.
Senior first baseman Steve Anderson and junior pitcher Jack Vander Linden — the two team captains —will provide leadership for the Hoyas. Sophomore catcher Nick Collins, who was voted to the preseason All-Big East team at both catcher and designated hitter, also will play a key role this season. After an outstanding freshman season that saw him hit .333, Collins appears ready to take his game to the next level this year.
“I expect he’s going to be a guy that’s going to hit in the middle of our order and play a role both offensively and defensively for us,” Wilksaid. “I was happy for Nick that he was picked preseason, but I also told him that doesn’t mean squat.”
Collins is one of six returning everyday starters from last year’s team, along with eight returning members of the pitching staff. That type of veteran leadership is often very valuable to teams, and the Hoyas will rely on their older players, especially early in the season.
“Obviously we’re going to lean on those veterans, and they’ve been through this season before,” Wilk said. “They know the ebbs and flows. Hopefully they will be able to shepherd the younger guys through the ups and downs.”
Even with the veteran presence, Georgetown will need a couple new players to step up after losing second baseman Danny Poplawski and centerfielder Justin Leeson— last year’s team MVP — to graduation. Coach Wilk does not think this will be an issue, though, and is very confident other players will step up to fill the role those two played last season.
“The middle of our order is deeper than ever,” Wilk said. “We’re looking for a better year out of [junior infielder] Ryan Busch. He was banged up last year for a lot of the season and struggled on both sides of the ball.He’s capable of playing the game very well. I’d like to see Anderson produce RBIs. Anyone of those guys can lose the baseball in a hurry and change the game in a hurry.”
At the heart of the order will be senior outfielder Christian Venditti, who returns after leading the Hoyas with seven home runs and 36 RBIs last season.
Another player looking to make his mark for the Hoyas is junior infielder A.C. Carter, a recent transfer from Seminole State College of Florida. After winning the Florida Collegiate Summer League batting title in 2013, Carter is primed to be a major contributor to the Hoyas this season.
“I think Carter is someone that hasn’t been talked about because he transferred in, so we don’t really know him, but I think he can provide some offensive pop and add depth to our order,” Wilk said.
The pitching staff will be led by Vander Linden, sophomore Matt Smith and junior Will Brown. That trio will be starting this weekend’s games against Marshall, Wake Forest and Towson, respectively.
In addition to their on-the-field competition, the Hoyas will also team up to help fight childhood cancer by supporting the St. Baldrick’s Foundation throughout the season. As part of this, players have decided to shave their heads after the April 5 game against Xavier.
The Hoyas were picked to finish fifth out of seven teams in the Big East preseason coaches’ poll, behind Creighton, Seton Hall, St. John’s and Xavier. However, Wilk said he and the team don’t put stock in rankings.
“I couldn’t care less where we’re picked. I care where we end up. If we can stay healthy, we have a big chance to put up a good amount of wins, and I’m looking forward to watching us.”