LYNDON CENTER, Vt. — The Lyndon baseball program will look to take a few more steps forward in the North Eastern Athletic Conference's Eastern Division behind a pitching staff which features six experienced veterans as well as a number of hard-throwing freshmen.
Junior left-hander Shane O'Donnell-Leach, who went 4-5 with an earned-run-average of 4.56, returns as the ace of a staff which also includes sophomores Patrick Hilton (1-4, 7.68), Isaac Earle (1-6, 8.42) and Shane Fleury (2-5, 7.23). Add in junior Jeremy Schichtle (2-2, 5-91), and the Hornets appear to have the depth and experience needed to pursue their first-ever NEAC East title.
"I'm expecting the veteran pitchers to do a better job than last year," said Head Coach Ryan Farley. "They've got a year or more of maturity under their belt and it's beginning to show. They do a great job of providing leadership and are better at controlling their environment.
"They no longer get caught up in errors committed behind them and bad calls at the plate," he continued. "They've been very good at that and I am expecting to them keep progressing throughout the season."
Junior Corey Wells will pitch out of the bullpen along with senior Dave Deming and sophomore Korey Marsh. The rest of the staff will be comprised of freshmen John Mooney, Spencer Thurber, Skyler Bourque, Antonio Mena, Jordan LaChance and Eugene Dix.
"I've been impressed by Skyler Bourque. He's done a nice job thus far" said Farley. "He won't blow you away, but he's always around the plate. He has a nice 10 mile-per-hour drop on his change-up and he spots the ball well. Beyond that, we've had a number of sore arms in the early going, but eventually Mooney, LaChance and Dix will get a chance to throw. They play to win and have been working hard in practice. "
Despite the loss of former All-NAC selections Ben Clark, Stetson Hicks and Zach Maerder, the Hornet lineup will be more than respectable. Shawn Lonardelli, who hit .355 before a season-ending leg injury a year ago, returns to for his junior season and will team with sophomore Shayne Kirby (.323, 21 hits), Corey Lescault (.304, 35 hits, 13 RBI), Robert Trucott (.290, 29 hits 11 RBI) and Jake Ainsworth (.265, 6HR, 20 RBI) to form the nucleus of the Lyndon offense.
"Losing a couple middle infielders and a centerfielder is tough. Fortunately we have 10 guys who can fill the void," said Farley. "Corey has done a fine job at shortstop and spent the off-season putting in the work that will help him deal with the day-in, day-out wear and tear of playing the position. As for Robert, Jake and Shawn, they'll be in the middle of the lineup and have done a great job of providing leadership to our younger hitters."
Freshman second baseman Kyle Whitworth has performed well in the early going hitting at a .500 clip and fellow frosh Michael Cartularo is currently batting .333 after four games. Cody Gage, a freshman centerfielder from North Country Union High School has cracked the lineup as its leadoff hitter and will be asked to ignite the Hornet offensive attack.
"Whit is the kind of kid who can play anywhere," said Farley. "He's fast, attacks the ball and has a great mind for the game. Dix, Newton and Mooney are guys who track the ball well too. Cody Gage is a kid who just 'jumped' into the lineup. My plan is to pencil him in centerfield and the leadoff role every single game."
Lyndon has been picked to finish fourth in the NEAC East pre-season poll. A year ago, the Hornets earned their first-ever post-season berth, only to bow out in two games versus traditional NEAC powers Castleton and Husson. With a number of veteran players now at his disposal, Farley believes the end of the 2011 campaign will have a much different outcome.
"We may be a young team, but we have the ability to move runners, put pressure on our opponents and put runs on the board," he said. "I'd put our pitching staff with anyone in the league and I am very confident they will get the job done. Where will we finish? Well, we're going to let everyone else decide that. If we do the right things, we'll reach our goal of getting to the post-season. We're going to worry about getting in and see where we go from there."