Coast Guard finished 16-16 overall advancing to the semifinals of the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) tournament.
The Bears return six of their top seven pitchers and seven everyday players as the team looks to build upon last season.
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Coast Guard started 10-2 last year, but struggled down the stretch despite a 6-1 win over Babson in the first round of the conference tournament, its first NEWMAC tournament win since 2010.
"We need to finish what we started," said head coach C.C Grant in his 10th season. "We started 10-2 and finished 16-16, but that was a big step for us to beat Babson and make it to the semifinals. It was huge for our guys who were there last year to understand what it takes to win a playoff game."
Junior Colton Cannon (3-2), who pitched a complete game scattering six singles in the tournament win last year, is back after leading the Bears with a 2.52 ERA and 50 innings pitched last season.
Juniors Eric Vrissis (2-1, 5.03) and Luke Sniatkowski (3-2, 5.16) along with sophomore Cody Bain (2-1, 2.66), who worked out of the bullpen last year and led the team with four saves, will comprise the top end of the Bears rotation.
"These pitchers worked every hard in the offseason and it shows," said Grant. "We didn't use Cody Bain enough out of the bullpen (23.3 innings total) so he will be one of our top starters this year and I'm excited because you are only as good and your pitching and defense are going to take you."
Vrissis went the distance and allowed just six hits and one earned run while striking out a career-high eight as the Bears clinched a playoff spot late last season.
Sniatkowski struck out a career-high eight and picked up the first complete game victory of his career, a 10-3 win over WPI a key NEWMAC win.
Sophomore Joe Siciliano (2-3, 5.63) and junior Justin Rebholz (3-2, 4.87) along with plenty of freshman arms have Coach Grant excited with the pitching staff.
"We have a solid group of pitchers back who have been successful for us in big league games," said Grant. "We also have freshmen who can throw right now and have confidence on the mound, so we will have more depth on the mound than we have had in years past."
Sophomore Alex Murdoch, who led the Bears with a .326 batting average, will once again be the Bears starting catcher while classmate Christian Toscano, who Coach Grant says as improved as much as anyone since arriving on campus will serve as the backup.
Senior Cory Sonnega (.239), who made 13 starts last season, will start at first base while freshmen Jake Behne and Mike Rosenberg will serve as the backups.
Senior Kyle Wood (.253), who set the school record with 33 walks last season and led the team with a .459 on base percentage, makes the move from third base to second base to solidify the infield while senior Mark Behne (.214), who led the team with 16 stolen bases, returns at shortstop to give the Bears a solid up the middle defense. Behne, who led the team with a .324 average as a sophomore, looks to once again be among the team batting leaders.
Sophomore Zach Serna (.231), who appeared in 15 games last season, takes over at third base.
Senior Eddie Lazowski (.234), a left-handed hitter, will start in left field, junior Kyle Jackson (makes the move from right and will start in center while junior Timbo Duncan (.301) will start in right field and as well as backup the infield spots. Duncan, who earned second team All-conference honor last season, is the one player in the lineup that can hit the ball out of the park on a consistent basis. He tied the single-season school record with six homers while leading the team with 22 RBI's last year.
Freshman Luke Thompson will also see time in the outfield. Freshman Trey Rittenhouse will be key as a late inning defensive replacement in the outfield while freshman Will Stephens, a switch hitter and sophomore Chris Clark will be good bats off the bench for the Bears.
"I like our lineup if they continue to improve," said Grant. "I'm happy with what we have put together as the season approaches as long as we keep working hard. Getting two games in before Florida will be a huge jump for us heading into the southern trip where we will play eight games."
The Bears open the season on Saturday against Fitchburg State in a doubleheader at the New England Baseball Complex in Northboro, Mass.
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