While the temperature outside might still be frigid, spring is just around the corner; and with the transition of the seasons, of course, comes the transition from one sports season to a new one. Goodbye hockey and basketball, and hello to America’s Pastime: baseball. However, this baseball season doesn’t involve sign stealing scandals or greedy trades by billionaire owners. This is the beginning of the baseball season for the Wesleyan Cardinals.
The team is set to begin their season with a spring training trip to Tucson, Arizona over the break, but soon students walking down Foss Hill will hear the crack of bats and pop of the leather throughout the Red Birds’ eleven home games throughout March and April.
Last year’s Cardinals had a middling season overall. They finished with a 17–18 record overall and 5–7 in conference play. They were 6–5 at home, 6–6 on the road, and 5–7 at neutral sites. They were pretty average across the board.
Last season, the Cards got off to a 5–7 start in spring training before opening up the season at home against Eastern Connecticut State University. While they lost that home opener 7–3, the Red and Black got off to a strong start to begin the season, winning four of their next five, including victories against Little Three rival Amherst College and fellow NESCAC member Hamilton College.
Other highlights of the 2019 season included the 18–5 beatdown of Johnson & Wales University, during which the Cards scored 15 runs in the game’s first four innings and seven players recorded an RBI; the 10–3 victory at Bates College in the second game of a doubleheader, where the Red Birds put up six runs in the top of the ninth to put the game away; and Kelvin Sosa ’21’s complete game five-hit shutout win over Williams College on Senior Day, the Cards’ final win of the season.
Speaking of Sosa, he was a young arm in a rotation dominated by upperclassmen. Sosa went 5–1 in eight starts for the Cardinals and had 35 strikeouts on the season, both team highs. He also finished with a 3.51 ERA, the second best on the staff among pitchers with at least 15 innings pitched. But, this season marks the departure of five of last year’s senior arms: Ryan Earle, Mike McCaffrey, Dan Lombardo, Doug Hartshorn, and Peter Delalio. That quintet combined to pitch 100 and one third innings last year out of a total of 287.1 innings. This means the Cards have to replace 35% of all innings pitched. However, it should help that Pat Clare ’19 is returning for a postgrad year. Last season, he led the Red Birds staff in innings pitched, complete games (tied with Sosa) and ERA. His 2.61 ERA was the sixth best in the entire conference.
Another impactful loss to the Cards was the departure of Andrew Keith ’19. Keith, a senior last year, was the team’s best hitter. He posted a .358 batting average, a .452 on-base percentage and led the team in hits and stolen bases. He also flashed the leather, recording 84 putouts from the outfield. For this remarkable season to cap off his Wesleyan career, he was voted to the All-NESCAC second team. The outfield was further depleted with the departure of Danny Rose, who led the team in on-base percentage and home runs.
So how are the Cards gonna replace all that talent? Well first, it starts off with another Andrew: Andrew Kauf ’20. The right-handed infielder posted a .356/.395/.452 slashline last year in 30 games played. And, while he strikes out more than he walks, he could be the best hitter on the team when it’s all said and done.
A couple more key players to look out for are seniors Alex Cappitelli and Jake Alonzo. The seniors had the most at-bats of any player last year, and both appeared in all 35 games. Cappitelli, an outfielder, was third on the team—among players who played more than 20 games—with a .982 fielding percentage to go along with a .378 on-base percentage and had a scored a team high 32 runs. A consistent presence in the field and at the plate is exactly what the Red Birds are gonna need to succeed.
Alonzo did his best Shohei Ohtani impression last year when he hit .270 with 12 RBI last year, and also posted a 4.86 ERA in 16.2 innings pitched. He could look to help the Dirty Birds on the mound and in the batter’s box.
This year looks to be a good one for the Cardinals, while valuable contributors left the team there are new faces that are ready to step up and lead the team. The Birds play at home for the first time on March 28 against Amherst.
Rocky D’Antonio can be reached at email@example.com.