Season Preview: Baseball

Junior Jason Clapper (pictured above during the 2015 season) is set to take over the third-base duties in 2016. -File photo

In his second season as the head coach of the Rowan baseball team, Mike Dickson has redemption on his mind.

After being ranked first in the New Jersey Athletic Conference Preseason Coaches Poll in 2015, the team finished fourth in the conference at 25-14 (12-6 NJAC) and suffered an early elimination in the NJAC Championship Tournament.

This season, the coaches ranked the Profs third in the poll. Dickson says he thinks that is the perfect spot for his team to turn some heads.

“I don’t know if the other coaches know who we brought in, because we have so many new people, so I think it’s fair for what is known about us,” said Dickson. “But I also think that we can improve on that.”

With the skipper losing eight seniors from last year, including Divison III Player of the Year Casey Grimes, ECAC All-Star Kevin McMenamin and All-State players Ryan Sharkey, Ryan Easterday and Ryan Pavlik, he had some work to do in the offseason to bolster the roster. Dickson ended up recruiting 22 new players to the brown and gold, several of whom played under him when he was coaching at Rowan College at Gloucester County two years ago.

He was able to get some DI players to come back home and play for the Profs as well.

“The thing about transfers is they’ve been playing college baseball for a couple years,” Dickson said. “Freshmen have to get acclimated, but the older guys that are transferring in have already been playing, and some of them have played for me before and understood my system.”

Rowan will have almost an entirely new lineup for the 2016 season, so Dickson will have to rely on the few guys that stuck around from last season to step up and be leaders. The three captains that he chose are all entering their senior seasons, and are all players that the coach hopes will set the bar for his newcomers.

“Greg Myers, senior catcher, is a second team All Conference guy, and he does an outstanding job behind the plate defensively and is a very good leader,” Dickson said. “[Senior first baseman] Steven Todd is a leader-by-example and goes out every day and gives you his all on the field, and [senior pitcher] Corey Feigenbaum has kind of been our vocal leader and was the leader of the pitching staff as well.”

Sophomore Monny Strickland takes over as the designated hitter and senior Evan Hughes will split time at second base with RCGC transfer Matt Jolly. Junior Jason Clapper will make the switch to third base after playing shortstop last season.

“I think Jason Clapper is really poised to make a jump,” Dickson said. “He had missed some time last year towards the end of the year, but had a great freshman year at Alvernia and showed us a lot of good things last year.”

The Rowan pitching staff will see a boost with the return of senior right-hander Dylan Johannik, who missed all of last season with an injury. Johannik was 6-0 in eight starts in 2014, led the team with a 2.37 ERA and 54 strikeouts and was named the 2014 NJAC Co-Pitcher of the Year and to the All-Conference first team. Rounding out the starting rotation are junior transfer Steve Priolo, sophomore Connor Walsh and Feigenbaum, who operated out of the bullpen in 2015.

The Profs begin their season today, Saturday, Feb. 27, at Randolph-Macon University for the first of a three-game series. The teams then close out the set tomorrow with a doubleheader.

“Randolph-Macon, they have a lot of seniors on their team, so they’re really poised to make a run at their conference,” said Dickson. “They’re 6-0 already, so it should be a good test for us early in the season to kind of figure out who we are as a club.”

Even with the tough test early in the year, Dickson believes his guys are ready to go out and make a run at the conference. The brown and gold will try to return to NJAC supremacy after winning back-to-back titles from 2013-14 before dropping off a season ago.

“I think we have some athleticism, and with all the new guys you can really see my fingerprints on the roster so I’m excited to see what they can do on the field,” Dickson said. “We’re balanced, we have speed throughout the lineup, and if we get some production out of our transfer arms I think we can really do some good things.”

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