Baseball hopes to make jump to final four in league standings

“Watch out for the Mules,” says co-captain Scott Goldberg ’15.  Goldberg has high hopes for his team this season and thinks the Mules have what it takes to contend for a NESCAC championship. “The team’s main goal for this season is to win the NESCAC.  The team fell one game short of the final four team playoff last year and we are out for revenge,” Goldberg said.

The team’s goals are certainly ambitious, but after last season’s large improvement, the team is in great position to take another step. After the 2012 and 2013 seasons, which saw the Mules finish in last in the NESCAC East division, the Mules jumped up to third in the 2014 season, with a 5-7 record in the conference. To advance further, the Mules will need to finish in the top two of their division, which is comprised of Tufts, Bates, Bowdoin, and Trinity. Last season, Tufts was the best team in the division with a 9-3 record, but the middle of the division was separated by just one game between the three Maine teams.

To make that jump to the final four and have a shot at the championship, the team will have to rely on many of the same players who helped them rise from the bottom of the division to the middle.

“Having experience is extremely important in being a successful team in the NESCAC,” Goldberg said. “Players know the competition they are going to be facing as well as how crucial every single game is.” Last season, co-captain Jason Buco ’15 led the conference with seven home runs, earning a first team all-NESCAC selection. In addition to Buco, the Mules should have one of the stronger teams in the middle of the lineup, adding in Soren Hanson ’16 and Nils Carlson ’15.

Besides Buco’s all-NESCAC selection, the strength of team comes from their dominance on the mound. Goldberg described last year’s staff as “one of the top, if not the top, pitching staffs in the league.  All three starters are returning again this year: myself, Soren Hanson, and Greg Ladd [’15].” The pitching staff carried a 3.07 conference ERA, good enough for 5th in the conference. Goldberg and Hanson both relied heavily on their ability to strike out batters, each having above a strikeout per inning pitched. The same pitching staff that propelled their season last year will be relied on even more heavily this season. Last year’s NESCAC final four teams were also the four best in terms of team ERA. If the Mules are able to lower their team’s ERA to under 3.00 and continue their improvement, a spot in the final four could happen.

In contrast to their pitching staff, the team’s offense ranked in the bottom tier of the NESCAC last season. The team scored a league-worst 36 runs in their 12 league games, diminishing the effects of their strong pitching staff. In addition to runs scored, the team ranked last in both walks (24) and on-base percentage (.290). Similarly to ERA, success in the NESCAC is strongly correlated with on-base percentage, with the final four teams each ranking in the top five in the league in on-base percentage. To reach their goals, improving their on-base percentage significantly to around .350 will be necessary.

The team will begin official practices this week and will begin their competitive season in March with their Spring Break Trip to Winter Haven, FL. for 12 games. The team will have to build on their past successes on these Florida trips and propel themselves forward into NESCAC play. Key games will be, as for any Colby team, their games against Bates and Bowdoin. The Mules will square off against Bates on April 10th and 11th and then against Bowdoin on the 24th and 25th. The results of those games will be a sure indicator of the success of their overall season. Jumping from the bottom of the NESCAC to the middle last season represented a great step forward for the Mules, but the jump from middle to top will be an even larger challenge. But with goals in baseball, it makes sense to swing for the fences.

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