The Dons baseball team is a young team – there are 23 underclassmen and just three seniors. The team’s youth could help them go back to the post season. The Dons will, however, rely on veterans to keep the team healthy if they want to win the conference and go back to the post season.
A big part of the outcome of the season for the Dons will be due to the veterans. Returning to the team are sophomore left handed pitcher Matt Lujuan and sophomore outfielder Connor Bernatz; both players were freshmen All-Americans last season. Senior third baseman Dane Braunecker and junior shortstop Derek Poppert can stay healthy this season.
The Dons have a good starting rotation and bullpen. Although the team lost Evan Frederickson and Matt Baugh to the draft and Brian Anderson is graduating, the Dons need to fill their rotation. Matt Lujan will go to the number one slot and start on Fridays, while junior Alex Kalogrides will start on Saturdays. Sundays and mid-week games are also up for grabs. Sophomore Garrett Luippold will be valuable as a relief pitcher and for closing, but he may move into the starting rotation. Sophomore Sean Burns also has a shot at a starting spot. Junior Doug Murray and freshman Cameron Love will be starting in the mid-week games. The bullpen is strong – it includes freshman Jordan Remer, freshman Bob Mott, junior Joe Anderson, redshirt freshman Kyle Lawton, junior Joe Oropez and sophomore Jonathan Abramson.
After having a successful stint with Team USA, junior Ryan Lipkin will start as catcher. The number two position goes to redshirt sophomore Travis Higgs; redshirt freshman Matt Quintero and freshman Mason Morioka will back up as needed.
The Dons will have to reshape their infield since they lost Joey Railey, Mitchell Bialosky, and Tavo Hall. Sophomore Stephen Yarrow will start at first base. Second base is up for grabs – junior transfer Robert Abel, junior George Lujan and sophomore Chris Escobar are all vying for the starting position. Poppert will start at shortstop and Braunecker at third base. Redshirt freshman Adam Clear will back up Poppert at shortshop, but he can also play second and third base.
Senior Zach Kim will be the veteran in left field and senior Drew Johnson will start in right field. Freshman Connor Bernatz and junior Bobby Ethel will share time in center field. Bernatz will also see time in left and right field. Freshman Jared Denham and Escobar will both be backups.
The Dons open the season with 18 consecutive games on the road and 22 of the first 23 games away from Benedetti Diamond. The Dons need to do well on the road; last year, they were 13-19 on the road. However, head coach Nino Giarratano thinks that the Dons are one of top four teams in the West Coast Conference. If the Dons want to win the conference, they need to take advantage of the young team as well use the veterans. Using their speed and defense would help them out as well.