by Steven Theetge
The Bryant University baseball team enjoyed its best season in history last year going 47-12 with an NEC championship win and an appearance in the NCAA tournament. The season was historic for the Bulldogs, however they lost one senior and two juniors to the Major League Baseball draft and eleven other seniors to graduation. The Bulldogs, while losing key members, also returned several key members and restocked with ten talented freshman and are ready to have a repeat season in 2017. I sat down and talked to two of the team’s captains, Mickey Gasper and James Karinchak. When asked if he thought the team could have the same success as last year, James responded with “we have a much different team than last year, but I believe that we can have just as much success as last year if not more”. I went on to ask Mickey how the Bulldogs schedule looked for this season, Mickey said “we have a very tough schedule in the beginning of the season, but I believe that we become battle tested through this tough schedule and helps us out in the long run”. In that “tough schedule” Mickey referred to series’ against New Mexico State, Arkansas, Liberty, and Maryland.
Coach Steve Owens has over 800 wins in his career and is looking to add to his total this season. The Bulldogs also are the only team in the nation to have won their conference regular season championship the last five years in a row. Despite the aforementioned loss of many starters, the Bulldogs will field a talented team with the addition of one of the best recruiting classes in the history of the program. Freshman infielder Jimmy Titus and outfielder Ryan Ward bring experience and success from collegiate summer leagues before their college careers even begin. In addition, Chris Wright looks to be a legitimate two-way threat both as a pitcher and at first base. Two of the four weekend starting pitchers from last year’s squad return, leaving the remaining slots open. The fall season showed a lot of competition for these spots, as well as the vacated spots in the lineup.
You can look for production from senior captain Cole Fabio, who had a fantastic summer with the local Newport Gulls of the NECBL. Reigning NEC Rookie of the Year Nick Angelini also looks to put together another strong campaign as he will likely move from right field to center in the absence of Matt Albanese, who was drafted in the 7th round by the Minnesota Twins. The last of the returning starters in the field is junior Mickey Gasper, who hit over .400 both last season and during his summer in the Futures League.
The Bulldogs have built a reputation on a national scale after their continued success since the Division 1 transition in 2010. They have three NCAA tournament appearances since then, most notably in 2013 when they knocked off Arkansas. Last season, they were ranked as high as 14th nationally and held title to the highest winning percentage in Division 1 baseball. Given their sustained success, it will be fun to watch come spring to see if they can keep up the winning.