Stealing Home: Frostburg State University baseball preview

March 02, 2012 | Brandon Eyring

2012 is not a rebuilding year for the Frostburg State University baseball team. Despite the fact they graduated a stable of 17 seniors, featuring Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) Pitcher of the Year Greg Ross, as well as 1st team all-CAC second baseman Matt Greene, the Bobcats aim to turn a lot of heads. The Bobcats finished with a 28-15 record which included attaining their first CAC tournament championship in their first season in the conference. As a result of their underdog and unexpected victory by everyone not on the team, the conference title also awarded the baseball team an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Overcoming all of the odds Frostburg was able to stamp their legacy on the CAC by ending a string of 11 years that slated either rival Salisbury or Mary Washington as champions. Although a few keys players graduated, including previously mentioned MSABC Amateur Player of the Year and current member of the Danville Braves pitcher Greg Ross, the team is poised to build from their recent success to go for another thrilling run at a CAC title.

The team has received national recognition in the preseason polls for the second consecutive season by being honorably mentioned in the national rankings. The Bobcats will have plenty of opportunity to improve their ranked position in the early stage of the 2012 campaign as they are slated to face six teams currently ranked or honorably mentioned in the national rankings in their first few games. Senior slinger Zach O’Dell articulated in an interview, “We’ve got a few tough games early on (Methodist 2/17, Birmingham Southern 2/19, Marietta [2011 D3 World Series Champions] 3/28) , so if we put up good numbers against them, not only will that help ourselves out, but also get people to start thinking a little bit more.”

The stiffest CAC competition for the Bobcats this year should be Mary Washington and rival Salisbury once again, and they will play both teams in the opening conference series. “Fortunately, we beat them both to win our conference championship so I think when we play them the games will be that much more intense.” O’Dell said about their conference foes. Frostburg visits fellow 2011 CAC tournament finalist Mary Washington to open CAC play with a 3 game series, before taking another road trip to rival Salisbury the next weekend. The Sea Gulls enter the 2012 campaign ranked 9th in the country after capturing last season’s regular season CAC title and advancing to the D3 College World Series.

Guiding the Bobcats through the tough schedule with be senior captains SS Doug Anuszewski, OF Shane Boyd and RHP Zach O’Dell. Anuszewski, returning as a previous second team All-CAC performer that boasted a team best .356 batting average and .438 on-base percentage, “will anchor the middle of the order,” according to head coach Guy Robertson. Shane Boyd, will take his 29 starts of experience to patrol center field. His bat gets a base hit an average of .271% of the time. Zach O’Dell will headline a brand new pitching rotation for the new season. Of the 17 seniors that graduated, 8 of them were from the pitching staff. O’Dell’s optimism is not shaken however, stating “pitching will be a collective effort this year. We lost a couple strong arms in Greg Ross and Josh Davis but that’s not to say we can’t have the same success with the guys we do have. We only have a handful of senior pitchers, so the team is going to rely heavily on the younger guys to step up.”

Rounding out the infield with Anuszewski for the Bobcats will be sophomore Tyler Hawthorne at first base, senior Adam Summerfelt manning the hot corner, and junior Pat Sapp solidifying the middle of the infield at second base. Hawthorne was productive in his freshman campaign; he hit for a .282 batting average and led the 2011 team in doubles with 14. Summerfelt will look to build off his .347 batting average as well being a force in the clutch; his four sacrifice flies led the team. Sapp has been fighting to stay healthy after missing the past two seasons with injuries. He was white hot in his freshman season leading the team with a .385 batting average, and second on the team in slugging and RBIs, .538 and 33 respectively. The Bobcats will enjoy Sapp continuing to get on base because he knows how to steal as evidenced with his 19 career stolen bases.

Outfielders John Barrett, and Matt Donaldson will return to solidify the outfield for Frostburg. Senior John Barrett will guard left field for the Bobcats in 2012. He is a reliable ball player, evidenced by his 42 starts in 43 games in 2011. The Bobcats will enjoy his presence on all aspects of the field if he can play at a similar level as the .309 batting average/ 26 RBI and .958 fielding percentage of last season’s form. Although Matt Donaldson is a sophomore, he has already has lot of experience. The speed demon started 30 games in right field as a freshman. His most notable impact was on the base path as he led the 2011 team stealing bases on 9-of-10 attempts.

Onto the pitching staff; vying to the other starting roles will be juniors Joe Markiewicz, Cody Ellsworth, and Doug Politz. Ellsworth and Politz will begin their first season in a Bobcat uniform, both as transfer. Ellsworth played two season at Potomac State College helping them make an appearance in the 2011 JUCO World Series. Politz makes his way to Frostburg after two seasons at Fairmont State University. He started 13 games and finished with a 4-4 record with a 4.83 earned run average (ERA). Joe Markiewicz will look to make up for lost time after not seeing any action in 2011. His patience seems to be paying off as he will be an intricate part of the success of this season’s pitching staff.

O’Dell remains optimistic about the pitching staff in 2012, “’like I mentioned earlier, pitching will be a collective effort. We don’t have anyone throwing 90, yet, so we’re going to have to finesse our way through innings, easy ground balls and timely double plays. We’ve gained a few submarine guys in Tristan Beyer, A.J. Rosenthal as well as Ryan Derr which will be a great change of pace when we need one. I think we’ll surprise a lot of teams.” Beyer, Rosenthal and Derr are transfers; Beyer spending two season at Allegany College and last season at Shephard University, Rosenthal threw for Salisbury last season before transferring to Frostburg to double as kicker on the football team, and southpaw hurlers Derr joins the Bobcats after being injured all season for West Virginia State University.

All in all, FSU baseball is in a good state. They have already begun to gel as a team , which will be the only way they can successfully defend their CAC crown. With losing premiere seniors that carried the team last year, the baseball team will have to rely on each other more than ever. “Obviously we want to repeat our conference championship that we had last year. We also want to make it to the NCAA Tournament again. Those were huge accomplishments last year,” O’Dell stated. With expectations like those, the Bobcats are expecting to reload their championship punch for the 2012.