With just five seniors on his 30-man roster, Albion College baseball coach Scott Carden realizes the players he puts on the field this spring haven't been through the rigor of a Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association doubleheader. Celebrating his 10th season as the Britons' skipper, Carden says that while the goals remain the same, the focus of the winter practice sessions inside the Dow Center has been on the process.
"I'm excited for the opportunity to get on the field and see what we have," Carden said. "The big question is how are these young players going to react? That's why we have decided to focus on the process. It hurts our focus if we worry about (expectations). The attitude and effort have been outstanding and if we get that the outcome will take care of itself."
With its top two starting pitchers – Mike Schypinski and Kyle Cassidy – back Albion hopes it is well on its way to finishing among the top four teams in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association and qualify for the league tournament in May.
The question then turns to who will pitch the third and fourth games of MIAA series. Ross Hall, a senior captain who pitched in relief in 2012, has been moved to the starting rotation and the fourth starter is a competition between first-year student-athletes Craig Conway, Michael Fischbach, and Bill Radatz.
"Ross was asked to bounce around roles last season and that was not good for him," Carden said. "The No. 3 and No. 4 starters aren't going to be proven starters. There are going to be some trials no matter who they are. The good news is whoever starts will not have the pressure of having to throw a complete game because we've got more good options out of the bullpen than we've ever had."
Carden said the Britons are also boast a deep lineup that will give the Britons more options to beat the opponent.
The Britons will have a new starter behind the plate. While Alex Schumaker, the projected starter, has improved into what Carden calls "a very nice player", Spencer Bonofiglio may provide the Britons with the best option defensively and Dan Bloom is the power hitter among the group.
The rest of the infield has B.J. Konkle returning at first base, Davin Montgomery moving from shortstop to second base, Anthony Cappelletty taking over at shortstop, and Eric Shimmel holding down third base.
In the outfield, seven players are talented in different ways. Adam Mazza, one of the team captains, provides leadership in right field and he gives Carden the option to bunt or hit-and-run. Carden believes Brendan Diamond is the fastest player he's ever coached and that will fill the void left by the graduation of all-MIAA performer Chad Gromek in center. Michael Fischbach is slated to start in left field and has the baseball savvy from playing a lot of baseball while growing up in California.
"There will be a lot of adjusting of lineups and it can be either stressful or confidence-building for the players," Carden said. "I prefer to look at it as the latter. Anybody on the roster can start and do the job. I don't know if we've had as complete a team as this."
Albion opens the season March 8-9 with a three-game series at Franklin (Ind.) College before driving to Florida to compete in the Russ Matt Central Florida Invitational.
The Britons are scheduled to make their northern debut March 19 with a nine-inning home game against Bluffton (Ohio) University. Kalamazoo College will provide the opposition for the first MIAA series of the season.