'Neers gearing up for April


BENNINGTON -- The Southern Vermont College baseball team already has a good chunk of games under its belt, but the heart of the New England Collegiate Conference schedules still lies ahead for the Mountaineers as they get ready to take to the diamond after the team's Florida trip.

SVC went to Florida with a 2-1 record, and in the Sunshine State, the Mountaineers went 3-7 including a 1-2 record against NECC foe Mitchell College.

"We were competitive, and that was the biggest thing for me," said coach Dave Gage, who is in his second year at the helm for the 5-8 Mountaineers. "It was another step in the right direction program-wise."

Playing 10 games in 12 days, Gage said that he was happy with his pitching staff but noted the lack of rest on the trip.

"I think at the end of the week we ran out of some pitching, guys were coming back on shorter rest than they were used to," Gage said. "Overall, they threw strikes. They challenged guys and that's what we asked them to do."

Going forward, Gage said that sophomore Erik Johansen and freshman Dylan Angelo will bear a majority of the pitching load. Johansen, who was the top pitcher last season, is 0-2 over four starts this season, giving up 11 earned runs while striking out 15 for a ERA of 4.79. Angelo is 1-1 over three starts, including a complete game, with 10 earned runs on 11 strikeouts for a 4.29 ERA. Freshman Joshua Hay also pitched well in Florida, going the distance in a 7-6 win over Lasell in his only start.

At the plate, junior Cody LaBadia is on a tear in the early going, batting 23-for-47 with 16 RBIs, 11 runs and five doubles. The first baseman is batting .489 with a slugging percentage of .638 and has already picked up a NECC Player of the Week nod.

"Cody swung the bat real well," Gage said. "He saw the ball really well and didn't try to do too much with it."

Leadoff hitter Sal Sciara is only batting .176 (6-for-34), but the junior has a .463 on-base percentage and eight stolen bases. Of his six hits, three are doubles.

Junior outfielder Rolan Hernandez and sophomore pitcher/infielder RJ Pingitore are batting .333 for the Mountaineers. Pingitore, batting third in front of LaBadia in the order, has eight runs scored this season.

Gage said that he was content with how his team has hit so far this season, but thinks that the offense will pick up as the season goes along.

"Our hitting hasn't come around yet, but that's the last thing to come around in baseball," Gage said. "I think our strength is going to be our hitting. It hasn't shown yet, which is a good thing. To be 5-8 without that showing yet, I think this team could be pretty special."

It might take a little while longer, though, before the Mountaineers can show how special they are.

Already this week the Mountaineers have had to postpone three games, including two at home, and this weekend's three-game series with Daniel Webster College, slated for two games at DWC on Saturday and one at SVC on Sunday, is still up in the air.

With the Mountaineers and Eagles both 1-2 in the NECC, the series presents a great opportunity for the Mountaineers to create some separation in the middle of the standings. Gage said that the goal for his team this year is to qualify for the NECC playoffs, and with only four of the league's seven teams qualifying for the postseason, every win is critical.

"In our league, every team is competitive," Gage said. "It means that every win is important for us."

Gage also wants his team to finish above .500 this season, something that hasn't been done by an SVC team since 1989 when Bill Epstein coached the team to a 14-14 mark.

After going 11-24 in his first season, Gage thinks that the .500 benchmark is something the team can hit because of their attitudes.

"The biggest thing we saw [in Florida] as a coaching staff was that this team battles, this team sticks together," Gage said. "Our team chemistry, I say it and a lot of coaches will say it, but I think our team chemistry is by far the best I've seen. This is definitely the tightest team I've coached or even been around. I think we have to make the playoffs. I think that's our number one step. And I think that, at that point, anything can happen."


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