WORCESTER, Mass. - With less than a week until first pitch, the Worcester State University baseball team looks to return to the MASCAC Tournament in 2019 after falling short a year ago.
Led by 24th year head coach Dr. Dirk Baker, the Lancers will open up in Florida for eight games at the RussMatt Tournament. They will return to play three games at the New England Baseball Complex in Northborough against area colleges Anna Maria, Becker, and WPI.
Worcester State's 2019 Florida trip will feature the first ever tilts against Keene State and SUNY Poly, as well as meetings with Rutgers Newark, Ursinus, Lesley, Mount Union, and Husson.
In league play, the Lancers are looking to rebound, and make a return to the MASCAC Tournament and beyond. They lose seniors Keith Dombroski, Owen Gibbons, and Matt Iryzk, but return a number of veterans. The spring marks an entirely new era in the MASCAC as the conference expands to three-game sets against each opponent, an earlier spring break, later playing season, and addition of a Super Regionals format similar to Division I. “This spring is a whole new world,” said Coach Baker. “We have an additional seven MASCAC games, so a true representative of the league will lock down the No. 1 seed in the tournament. It will come down to who has the best and most consistent pitching.”
The squad plays the top-dog in the conference on opening weekend in late March versus defending champion Westfield State. The Lancers conclude 2019 with series against Mass. Maritime and Salem State. Worcester State will play a total of 40 regular season games in 2019, with 14 at Lyons Diamond.
The top six teams make the MASCAC Tournament May 9-12 with the NCAA Regionals and Super Regionals later in the month. The College World Series will be played in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Locking down the infield are seniors Ben Palatino (Hudson, Mass.) at first base, an All-MASCAC selection in 2017-18 and the team’s batting leader at .356, and Seth Leslie (Phillipston, Mass.) who was a starter for 2017 MASCAC Champs returns to play shortstop. Junior Kenan Kolanda (Sterling, Mass.) holds down second base, and Sam Allen (Springfield, Mass.) is at third. Freshmenn Paul Prior (Berlin, Conn.) and Joe Rogato (Methuen, Mass.) will also contribute in the infield.
Patrolling the outfield is senior captain Michael Ferrara (Easton, Mass.), who led the team in 2018 with 47 hits and 31 runs batted in. Also in the mix is junior Kevin Larkin (Rocky Hill, Conn.), who led the team last year with 15 doubles, sophomore Jake Breton (Wilbraham, Mass.), who hit .333 and was 2018 All-MASCAC Second Team and Worcester State Rookie of the Year, and junior Cooper Bigelow (Leominster, Mass.). Competing for playing time will be freshmen Payton Stinson (Somers, Conn.), Pat Galvin (Shrewsbury, Mass.), Andrew Miller (Naples, Fla.), and Sean Devin (Lynn, Mas.).
Expect a battle behind the plate in the catcher's position, as freshmen Michael Mabee Jr. (Saugus, Mass.), Michael Chaves Jr. (Hudson, Mass.), and Matt Bouley (Hatfield, Mass.) all compete for the starting job.
Everyone will have to contribute to the pitching corps, including lone senior Josh Boucher (Auburn, Mass.), junior PJ Walsh (Bridgewater, Mass.) who was a member of the 2017 MASCAC Champions, and sophomores Sean Mahan (Woburn, Mass.), Issiac Christiansen (Franklin, Maine), and Kyle Gray (Braintree, Mass.) – the only pitchers with MASCAC experience. Two hurlers hoping to come back from injuries are Seth Allen (Springfield, Mass.) and Alphonse Caruso (Worcester, Mass.).
After dominating MASCAC play in 2000-09 (254 wins), the Lancers look to close out this decade on top again by winning their seventh MASCAC Tournament Championship since 2002.
Be sure to follow @WSULancers on Twitter and @WSU_Lancers on Instagram for all in-game coverage throughout the 2019 season.