2020 Baseball Season Preview
HAVERFORD, Pa. - The Haverford College baseball team opens up the 2020 season on Saturday with a clear focus on chasing down the Centennial Conference championship in May. Haverford reached the final of the Centennial Conference a season ago, and has raised three CC championship banners (2012, 2014, and 2016). That goal is firmly in reach for Haverford with a talented group of returners and hungry newcomers. After reaching the 20-win mark for the eighth time in the last 10 seasons in 2019, Haverford begins the 2020 campaign in earnest on Saturday, February 29 with a doubleheader on the turf at No. 11 Kean. Haverford will face off with the Cougars (11:30 a.m.) and Susquehanna (2:45 p.m.) in Union, N.J.
An 11:30 a.m. match with Kean is first on the docket Saturday, followed by a neutral-site contest with Susquehanna at 2:45 p.m. After a midweek trip under the lights to Scranton (March 4), Haverford then embarks on its annual spring break trip to the Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic in Fort Myers, Fla. The Sunshine State trip is highlighted by the continuance of a recent series with No. 10 Wooster, as the two squads will meet for the third consecutive season on March 9. Other non-conference highlights include the Fords welcoming MIT to campus for a matchup on Monday, March 23. The Fords will be facing the Engineers for the first time in program history. After hosting a pair of conference doubleheaders in April, The Centennial Conference tournament begins with the opening round contest slated for April 30 before the semifinals and finals at the site of the top-seeded team on May 2 and 3.
The Preseason Poll
The conference's head coaches are ticketing Haverford to a return trip to the Centennial Conference tournament for the 14th time in the last 16 seasons. Johns Hopkins, the defending Centennial Conference champions, were picked to repeat that feat with six first place votes and 78 total voting points after reaching the College World Series a season ago. Swarthmore, a 2018 CWS participant, was picked second with the other four first place votes and 70 total voting points after missing the conference tournament in 2019. In a testament to the strength of the league, the Centennial is the only conference in the nation to have a team advance to the College World Series each of the last two seasons. Franklin & Marshall edged Haverford for the third place vote, pulling in 62 total voting points, while the Fords (57 total voting points) eclipsed fifth-place Dickinson (43). Washington College (40), Ursinus (39), Muhlenberg (34), Gettysburg (17), and McDaniel (10) rounded out the poll in sixth through 10th place, respectively.
Despite losing a senior class that amassed 85 wins and took three trips to the Centennial tournament, Haverford looks to be in a strong position with a position player grouping that includes Centennial Conference Gold Glover of the Year and co-captain Will Karp. Karp, the first back-to-back winner of the Gold Glove Award, was also named an All-Centennial first-teamer and picked up 2019 Mid-Atlantic ABCA/Rawlings All-Region Team honors after slashing .377/.448/.490 and stealing a team-best 29 bases. Other threats in the lineup include Luke Wallis, who had a breakout campaign last year, hitting .286 with 29 RBI. Co-captain Harrison Burns figures to be a versatile part of the Haverford lineup, as he also was a menace on the base paths with 16 steals in 20 attempts while hitting .282. Zach Landry returns after a great first year campaign, notching 33 starts as a rookie, and Owen Plambeck is back for his senior season, owning the sixth-highest fielding percentage in program history (.986).
The junior class also includes contributors such as Garrett Melby (39 AB), Ben Somorjai (missed last season with injury) and Matt Sabitsky (25 AB), while sophomores Ben Browning (31 AB), Kevin Casey (13 AB), Grant Schwartz (17 AB), Ryan Schwartz (16 starts, 55 AB), Luke Smith (eight starts, 33 AB), and Will Vostrejs (4 AB) will all return after some valuable experience off the bench in their first years on campus in 2018-19.
On the pitching staff, the Fords return all but 76 of their 335.2 innings pitched a season ago, as D3Baseball.com All-Region pick Nathan Bass (2.28 ERA) and second-team All-Centennial selection Andrew Johnson (7-1, 3.24) headline a deep and talented staff while Brandon Jenkins (2.03 ERA, four saves) will return for his senior campaign after emerging as a relief ace for the Fords in his All-Centennial junior campaign. Ryan Giovenco (16 IP), Dylan Livingston (31 IP) and Martin Matsumura (28.2 IP) each saw time in the starting rotation last season, while Lucas Greenbaum (6.1 IP), Eric Koczpynski (1.98 ERA in 27.1 IP) , Nathan Vucovich (11 IP), and Kevin Casey (6.2 IP) all saw time in relief action as Haverford relied on a bevy of key contributors to get outs in big spots, often using relievers for multiple innings down the stretch as Centennial Conference play tightened. Thomas Primosch worked back from injury to appear in two innings a season ago after a breakout first year campaign.