LANCASTER, Pa – After narrowly missing out on the Centennial Conference (CC) Postseason in each of the previous two seasons, the 2018 Franklin & Marshall baseball team has its sights set on a return to the tournament.
The Diplomats' regular season opens this weekend with a doubleheader against Guilford on Saturday at noon, followed by a 1:00 p.m. meeting with No. 17 Roanoke on Sunday at 1:00 p.m.
To watch the season preview video, featuring head coach Ryan Horning, click here.
Last year's team battled for a CC Playoff spot throughout the year before being eliminated from contention on the last day of the regular season, finishing with a 21-18-1, 9-8-1 CC record and becoming just the 10th team in program history to eclipse 20 wins.
The top-three arms return in a talented and veteran-laden starting pitching staff that figures to give the Diplomats one of the Centennial's deepest rotations. A stout defense also appears to be a calling card of the 2018 team with three starting infield players being welcomed back into the fold.
A total of 10 freshmen are joining the squad, with as many as four having a chance to crack the opening-day starting lineup and two or three providing significant contributions to the pitching staff. F&M lost 14 players to graduation, including the program's all-time hits leader David Iacobucci who was an All-Region selection with a team-leading .411 batting average.
To watch a video roster of the 2018 team, click here.
Top Returners (Batting Order)
Kengo Kawahara | Sr. | OF | .264/.379/.431 – 6 2B, 15 RBIs, 3 SB
Jimmy Whelan | Sr. | IF | .273/.427/.352 – 3 2B, 17 RBIs, 6 SB
Dan Marano | Sr. | 1B | .343/.395/.371 – 1 2B, 13 RBIs, 5 BB
Danny Blugis | Jr. | C | .267/.313/.333 – 2 2B, 11 RBIs, 1 SB
Justin Cavegn | So. | IF | .315/.369/.370 – 1 HR, 3 2B, 14 RBIs, 11 BB
*Slash line indicates (AVG/OBP/SLG)
Top Returners (Starting Pitchers)
Mike Androconis | Sr. | RHP | 5-2, 2.92 ERA, 61.2 IP, 69 Ks
Jonathan Cole | So. | RHP | 4-3, 2.85 ERA, 53.2 IP, 36 Ks
Andrew Mascis | Sr. | RHP | 2-3, 4.04 ERA, 35.2 IP, 21 Ks
Top Returners (Bullpen)
Danny Blugis | Jr. | RHP | 4 Saves, 1.06 ERA, 17 IP, 21 Ks
Bobby Gaston | Sr. | RHP | 4-1, 5.28 ERA, 15.1 IP, 14 Ks
Milestones to Watch
Senior ace Mike Androconis enters the 2018 season with 14 wins in his career, a mark that is good for ninth-best all-time and places him just six shy of the program record (20) held by Ted Serro '06.
Androconis' three complete-game shutouts are tied for second, behind only Serro in first with five, while his 141 strikeouts are seventh all-time. With his 27 career starts, he also is closing in on the program record of 33 held by Alex Guerra '15.
A Look at Guilford
Guilford has already competed in five games this season and currently holds a 1-4 record, not including the Quaker's competition with Elmira on Friday. Guilford finished with a 22-17 record last year and narrowly missed out on an ODAC Tournament birth. This year's squad returns six starters and 23 letter winners, including All-Region infielder Trevor Denton, who hit .366 with 50 RBIs and a school-record 20 doubles.
F&M trails the all-time series by a 12-3 margin that includes a six-game Guilford winning streak. To follow along with live stats on Saturday, click here.
A Look at Roanoke
Roanoke ranks No. 17 in the country after finishing third the NCAA DIII World Series a year ago. The entirety of the Maroons' dangerous outfield returns, including Sean Guida (.339/.414/.472), Scott Ellis (.344/.437/.383) and Sam Watson (.318/.381/.373).
Sunday's meeting with Roanoke will mark the first in series history for the Diplomats.
CC Preseason Poll
F&M was picked to finish third in the CC Preseason Poll. Defending-Champion Johns Hopkins earned the top spot with 80 points and eight first-place votes, followed by Haverford (70 points, 2 first-place votes), F&M (55 points), Ursinus (54 points) and Swarthmore (50 points).
The Road Ahead
F&M faces seven teams on its schedule that either rank or received votes in the latest NWCA/D3Baseball.com National Poll, including meetings with four non-conference foes in competitions that occur before the Diplomats head into Centennial play.
A challenging 10-game spring break trip down in Winter Haven, Fla. is followed by a six-contest homestand at Caplan Field, beginning on Tuesday, March 20 against Albright at 3:30 p.m. Centennial Conference (CC) play starts on Saturday, May 31 with a road doubleheader against Washington College while the CC Tournament is set for May 3-6.
Look for the icon below, which can be accessed at the top-right of the 2018 baseball schedule when viewed on your computer, or bottom-left of all schedules on your mobile device.
Centennial Conference Digital Network (CCDN)
The Centennial Conference announced a partnership with Stretch Internet to become the conference's digital network provider and establish a central location for all CC athletic events. Broadcasts that are present in the Stretch portal are exclusively produced by each of the 11-member institutions of the conference.
In addition to its Roku channel, the Conference will have three new over-the-top (OTT) applications to make broadcasts available – Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Android TV. Home broadcasts that are produced by all 11 members will be available on CentennialConference.TV and the OTT apps.
Follow Along (Social Media)
All of your favorite Diplomat athletic teams are available on social media. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram, like them on Facebook and subscribe to the Diplomats YouTube page for frequent highlight videos of games throughout the season.