BASEBALL | Standout Leeson, Hoyas Open Season in S.C.
Published: Friday, February 15, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 15, 2013 00:02
After a long, hardworking offseason, the Georgetown baseball team is cautiously optimistic at the start of a new year. This weekend, the Hoyas head to Spartanburg, S.C., to kick off their 2013 campaign against Wofford, UNC Asheville and USC Upstate.
The Blue and Gray are coming off a 24-29 season in which their 10-17 Big East record narrowly barred them from qualifying for the conference tournament. Since then, Head Coach Pete Wilk — now in his 14th season — has been working tirelessly to revamp his squad and try to turn things around this year.
“When we got back in September, I thought we were going to be terrible. Our first three weeks of practice, we were terrible,” Wilk said. “But somehow we stopped the bleeding, turned it around and ended up with a very good fall. Winter’s been good, and in the spring, we did a lot with what we can do facility-wise. I think we’re as prepared as the weather has allowed us to be.”
The Hoyas will certainly be required to go through a tough transition process starting this weekend, due to the loss of several key graduates, including leading hitter shortstop Mike Garza (.393 batting average in 2012), outfielder Rand Ravnaas (.325) and pitching ace Will Harris (2.85 ERA).
“We had some quality players graduate last year, but it happens every year,” Wilk said. “In the first game, when I haven’t seen a base-runner come around third base for a while, then I will be hurting. How are we coping? Well, I guess we need some people to step up to fill those shoes.”
The candidates to emulate those graduates’ success include a trio of seniors — outfielder Justin Leeson (.325 average in 2012), starting pitcher Neal Dennison (4-3 record) and closer Charles Steinman (3.05 ERA) — who have contributed significantly to the team in recent years. However, Georgetown will have to rely on relatively inexperienced players as well, including three freshmen — shortstop Curtiss Pomeroy and catchers Eric Webber and Nick Collins — who figure to get significant playing time as rookies.
“They’re going to have to be ready. Ready or not, here they come,” Wilk said of that freshman group. “I think they’re ready, but they’re still freshmen. There will be some jitters, especially this weekend, and hopefully after this weekend they forget they’re freshmen.”
After this weekend’s games, the Blue and Gray will compete in two more tournaments before starting their first three-game series with Princeton on March 13 and opening the Big East season against Connecticut beginning on March 20.
Although his team has plenty of time left to get ready for the conference season, Wilk insisted that the Hoyas put a special emphasis on non-conference fixtures.
“We don’t look at preparing for the Big East season — our season is 55 games long,” Wilk said. “We used to put different value on conference games, but over time, we really felt like our team was approaching some games with more focus than others, and that’s not the way to play this game. So we stopped differentiating between a conference game and a non-conference game, and we’ve had a little bit better results in our non-conference games [since].”
Prior to the season, the Hoyas were picked to finish 11th in the 12-team Big East, an expectation that they will surely hope to better. Wilk insisted that the team and coaching staff ignore these prognostications but at the same time understood their ranking in the context of the team’s performance in recent years as well as their departures from last season.
“Until we stop finishing in the bottom third of the conference every year, that [prediction] is fair,” Wilk said.
Ultimately, Wilk said that Georgetown’s goal this season, like every season, is to make the conference tournament. The Hoyas can begin to lay the groundwork for that aspiration with a successful trip down south this weekend.
“We’re trying to win every game we possibly can,” Wilk said. “We don’t have the mindset that this is a scrimmage — we’re not trying to play freshmen because it’s not a conference game. It all counts. So we’re going down there to try to win three, and like any other road trip we’ve had, if we win two, it’s a successful trip.”
Georgetown will face Wofford at 4 p.m. today, UNC Asheville at 12 p.m. Saturday and USC Upstate at 1 p.m. Sunday.