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2014 Baseball Season Preview

Feb. 18, 2014

EASTON, Pa. – Guided by 15th year head coach Joe Kinney, the Lafayette baseball team travels south to open its 2014 campaign this weekend when it visits Virginia Military Academy for a three-game series. The Leopards return 24 letterwinners, including four starting position players and three pitchers from their 2013 sqaud.

Kinney’s coaching staff remains intact as Gregg Durrah returns for his 15th season, Brandt Godshalk starts his seventh year, and Ian Law '06, a former All-Patriot League shortstop, begins his fourth season as an assistant coach. After missing out on the Patriot League Tournament in 2013, Kinney and his staff look to return the Leopards to postseason play this spring.

Parker Hills, who started 42 games behind the plate a year ago, returns for his junior year and will handle a majority of the catching duties. A veteran at the position with 68 career starts, Hills hit .241 and led the team with 16 doubles in 2013. Also spending time behind the dish will be rookie Austen Maggin, a left-handed hitter who has the ability to play multiple positions and figures to see significant playing time in his debut season on College Hill. Maggin, from Maret High School in Potomac, Md., could see his name in the lineup at designated hitter, third base or the corner outfield spots.

Underclassmen highlight the Lafayette lineup across the infield with sophomores Tyler Hudson, Jackson Kramer, Andrew Landolfi and Campbell Lipe each looking to make a significant impact in their second seasons in Maroon and White. Lipe was third on the team with a .273 batting average in his initial campaign and will be Lafayette’s primary first baseman heading into 2014. Hudson, who hit .256 in 14 games as a rookie, earned the starting position at third base after an injury cut his first season in Easton short. Kramer and Landolfi each saw significant playing time at shortstop last year and the coaching staff will try to take advantage of Landolfi’s defensive ability and athleticism by moving him around the diamond.

Another standout defensively during the fall season was freshman Nick Murray, who figures to be Lafayette’s starting second baseman following the graduation of All-Patriot League honoree Kevin Casey ’13. Murray is a left-handed hitter from Potomac, Md. who attended Landon High School.

Providing depth in the infield will be senior Eric Anderson and junior Rob Caliento as reliable backups up the middle. Freshman Alex Woinski along with junior Tim Lazor could also see time at first base. Right-handed hitters Lazor and sophomore Zach Gross are Lafayette’s most-likely choices at DH when facing southpaws. Anderson also provides Kinney with a left-handed DH option like Maggin.

One of four seniors on the roster, co-captain Andrew Santomauro will start in centerfield for the third consecutive season after posting a .258/.374/.349 slash line as a junior. Santomauro started 101 games over the last two years and led the team with 15 stolen bases in 2013. The Leopards everyday centerfielder will try to build on a successful summer of playing in the New England Collegiate Baseball League and being named a NECBL All-Star. He led the Plymouth Pilgrims in hits, runs scored (23) and stolen bases, with his 53 knocks and 23 steals each ranking second in the entire NECBL. Sophomore Michael Coniglio will back up Santomauro in center and could be used as a pinch runner or defensive replacement in the corner outfield positions in late-game situations.

Junior Brett Thompson, sophomores Alex Nickles and Matt Lawrence and Northeastern transfer Ronald Sessa are competing for the starting positions to the left and right of Santomauro. Lawrence made the most of his limited opportunities as a freshman, with eight hits in 23 at-bats, including a double and three walks in 15 games.  Thompson and Nickles each played 17 games a year ago.

Senior left-handed pitcher Connor Ortolf and sophomore righty Mitch Leeds will claim two of Lafayette’s weekend rotation spots as the season opens. Ortolf posted a 5.73 ERA in 10 starts a year ago, while Leeds was second on the team with a 4.28 ERA and posted a 1-2 record in five starts and 15 appearances. Leeds started his rookie season in the bullpen and earned three saves, before moving into the rotation during Patriot League play. The other two starting spots will be decided based on the performance of freshman David Bednar, juniors Toby Schwartz and Alex Farina and sophomore Ari Kaufman. Of that group, the two non-starters will be important components of Lafayette’s bullpen. Freshman lefty Adam Ashenfarb could be a starter or come out of the bullpen during the season.

Right-handers Cory Spera and Connor McMahon headline the back end of Lafayette’s bullpen along with left-handed sophomore Ryan Callanan. Freshmen Trevor Houck, Coleman Strohm and Rob Ewald will be asked to contribute immediately, and senior Robert Tatum and sophomore Mark Louis will also take the mound for the Leopards in relief.

Lafayette kicks off its 2014 season on Friday at 4 p.m. against VMI. The Leopards and Keydets then resume the series on Saturday at 2 p.m. before Sunday’s 1 p.m. first pitch. All three games will be played at Gray-Minor Stadium in Lexington, Va. Check back to for a preview of opening weekend on Thursday.