The Collegian
Tuesday, May 24, 2022

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Baseball opens at home against Niagara Saturday

The University of Richmond's baseball team is looking forward to showing off its new scoreboard during its 33 home games this season.

"Any time an opponent comes to Pitt they get our best effort," baseball coach Mark McQueen said.

The Spiders open their season on Pitt Field against Niagara University with a double-header at 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Feb. 21 and a 12 p.m. game on Feb 22.

In 2007, the Spiders finished third in the Atlantic 10 Conference but fell to the 11th spot during the 2008 season. McQueen said he was disappointed with the 2008 season, but that the had lost two of its key players.

During the first week of the 2008 season the team lost third baseman Cameron Brown to a hand injury and shortstop Victor Croglio to a hamstring injury. When injuries also sidelined junior pitchers Brian Farrell and Ian Marshall, and redshirt senior Brian Alas, McQueen said he had been forced to rethink his goals for this season.

"If all goes well, I can see us making a legitimate run at an A-10 title," Alas said. The team was very close to playing in the championship game against Charlotte in 2007, and Alas said he was confident that this year's team could play at that level.

Eager to get back on the mound after recovering from a shoulder surgery, Alas said he hoped he would have the opportunity to close for the team this season, but as he quickly learned last year, "You never know what can happen once the season starts."

McQueen said the team's ranking should improve this season with six returning starters on the field, but it faces a tough schedule that includes Virginia Commonwealth University, the College of William and Mary and Old Dominion University. McQueen said the team would not have the luxury of resting mid-week because of the tough teams. The team has as many as four to five games scheduled each week. Pitchers will rotate to be sure they are well-rested, he said, because it will be important to be mentally and physically prepared for each game.

"If the guy on the mound is on, it does not matter who you are playing," McQueen said.

McQueen said the team was looking forward to its challenging non-conference games, such as the Virginia Military Institute on March 24 and cross-town competitor VCU on May 5. The Spiders have lost to both of these teams in regular season games since 2004, but teammates are confident about playing them this year.

"VMI and VCU have always been scrappy, hard-nosed teams," Alas said. "I don't expect anything different this year. But, if we play our game, I like our chances against both teams."

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Senior captain Ryan Metzroth said VMI and VCU baseball teams "come to play with another level."

McQueen said the team was young, but talented, and the younger players would play a vital role in both offense and defense. He said he anticipated that at least three of the nine freshmen players would be impact players. Included in the freshmen lineup are right-handed pitcher Alex Maffett, first baseman Ryan Mallory and shortstop Adam McConnell. All are expected to see playing time.

"Adam McConell is one of the better all-around athletes on the team, adding to our offense and defense," Metzroth said.

The returning sophomores also add to the depth of the team, McQueen said, maturing as players over the last year. Among them is right-handed pitcher and designated hitter Billy Barber, who as a freshman was named an All-American designated hitter with a batting average of .317, 13 home runs and 35 RBIs.

Though the team is young, McQueen said, "There is nothing like having experience on the field."

Senior captains Metzroth and Josh Horn will teach the young players the work ethic and commitment expected, McQueen said.

"These two captains lead by example on and off the field -- as excellent students and quality people besides baseball players," he said.

McQueen said Alas, who was named second team All-Conference player in 2007 with 14 saves, and Horn would close for the team this season. Junior pitcher Matt Zielinski and redshirt junior pitchers Stephen Owens, Brian Farrell and Ian Marshall had been throwing the ball well this spring and would all have to fight for the three starting positions in conference play, he said.

Contact reporter Dani Pycroft at dani.pycroft@richmond.edu

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