Season Preview: Baseball Seeks to Transform into Playoff Team

Thursday, February 23, 2012 - page 3

During the offseason, one of the racquetball courts in the Life Sports Center was transformed into a batting cage for the Muhlenberg baseball and softball teams.

Brian Beck
Beck has committed just three errors in 310 chances the past two seasons.
The baseball players have spent the winter months logging plenty of hours in the cage doing tee work and other hitting drills, and they hope all of that work will help them perform a transformation of their own on the diamond.

The Mules open up the season with a doubleheader at Gallaudet on Saturday followed by a game at Catholic on Sunday afternoon. But that’s not soon enough for senior Nick Busillo, who said he has never been so eager to get a season started.

“I’ve been waiting for this weekend since the end of last season,” he said. “I’ve never seen our team work so hard in the offseason, and I can’t wait to see what we can do. I wish we could go out and play right now.”

The Mules return four players that started at least 25 games each to their lineup.

Junior outfielder John Muha earned honorable mention All-Centennial Conference honors last spring after hitting .352 and leading Mule regulars with a .438 on-base percentage. He’ll be joined in the outfield by classmate Joseph Vila, who hit a CC-high six triples and led Mules with five home runs (sixth in the CC) and 25 RBI.

Sophomore John Scuderi started all but four games at shortstop and batted .312 with a team-high 28 runs scored. In the field, he finished three assists shy of the school single-season mark with 112.

Mike Speroni
Speroni leads active Mules with 37 career appearances, including 16 in each of the past two seasons.
Senior Brian Beck (10 runs, 5 RBI, .315 OBP) figures to see a lot of time at first, while Busillo (.289, 16 RBI, 5 doubles, one home run) and sophomore Max Litvak (.289, 16 runs, 12 RBI, 5 doubles, 3 triples) could also see some innings at first and should compete for time at designated hitter.

Junior Jimmy Aramanda and sophomore Brett Rosen, who both missed a majority of last season because of injury, are expected to compete for the starting catching spot and could also get at-bats at DH.

“I think we’re actually going to score a lot more this year,” Busillo said of the offense. “We have a lot of guys swinging the bat really well right now, and I think we’re going to have a very solid lineup from top to bottom. I expect us to put up a lot of runs.”

On the hill, the Mules will look to juniors Rob Shannon, Ryan Rechten and Billy Rogers, who all finished in the top four on the squad in innings pitched last season.

Senior Mike Speroni has shown the ability to both start and come on in relief during his career, and junior reliever Tim Velys finished 3-0 out of the bullpen and led the team with a 3.60 ERA last season.

“The pitchers have been doing really well,” Busillo said. “They really seem to be hitting their spots and are looking very confident. I think they’re going to surprise some people this year.”

While the Mules do welcome back several experienced players, with a roster of 46, including 25 freshmen, preseason competition has been fierce. Almost every spot is up for grabs, and Busillo said that competition has helped push everyone to become better.

The Mules travel to Eastern on Wednesday for their last northern game before heading to Florida for Spring Break. That’s where Busillo expects the transformation to fully get underway with the Mules playing eight games in eight days.

And when they come back north, he said the whole team is focused on one goal.

“It’s playoffs or bust, pretty much,” Busillo said. “Our senior class has never been there, and we don’t want to end our careers without getting to the postseason.

“Whenever we see guys slacking, we say, ‘Do you want to make the playoffs?’ That’s been our motivation and where we want to end up. And I definitely think we have the talent to win a lot of games this year.”