by Austin Lockwood
The Cavaliers baseball team received a preseason ranking of 14 from NJCAA.org. Such a high ranking out of the 176 teams in NJCAA Division I is to be expected after the recent success the Cavaliers have managed to find on the diamond with a record of 50–14 after the 2013–14 season and a 49–11 record last spring.
The team ended the 2014–15 season with the number eight ranking, so a repeat in the top 25 is not surprising. However, the Cavs will sorely miss former infielder Anthony Miller, who graduated last year and took with him the title of team leader in runs, hits, home runs and RBIs. He also held the highest batting average with a staggering .443 average, just above fellow graduate Ben Calvano’s .413.
They aren’t the only ones being missed, considering six more sophomores have left holes to fill along the lineup. Out of all returning players, only three notched over 100 at-bats last season. Sophomore catcher Andrew Warner leads returning players with 11 home runs, 44 RBIs and a .384 batting average.
The pitching lineup will also be missing some key players, but things won’t be as rough with the return of left-hander Wally Nellor, who posted a 4–0 record last season and earned seven saves as a reliever. His pitching proved incredibly effective last year with a 1.70 ERA, leading team pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched.
Overall, the team will return just seven lettermen and will have to bring in 25 newcomers. It’s hardly a sign of impending doom considering the high turnover rate of college sports. With every college dealing with such issues, it falls on the coaches and returning sophomores to prepare these new players for the new atmosphere of collegiate baseball.
The Cavs started off hot during a trip to Millington, Tennessee, where they defeated all three teams they faced. With the 3–0 start, the team is home again and preparing to host the Ellsworth Panthers (0–0) in a four-game series. The opening game is Friday, Feb. 19 with a doubleheader the next day and the concluding game on Sunday, Feb. 21.