The Manhattan Jaspers rebuild is over. Inexperience and injuries are replaced with experience, health, talent and depth.
Where the pitching is concerned they are impressive. It’s a staff comprised of young talent of the deepest and highest quality, and to no surprise. Jasper head coach, Jim Duffy, recruited heavily in pitching in the 2014 college baseball draft class. The top recruit, Tom Cosgrove, was projected to be a pitcher to watch in the MAAC by “The ‘J’ Effect” and D1Baseball.com last week.
In the Jaspers’ season opening weekend, Duffy plans to showcase his new arms early. On Friday at Lamar University, Steve Arntsen is going to get the start in place of an ailing Cosgrove, who would have gotten the start if not for a blister on his pitching hand, but he is slotted to pitch in relief of Arntsen for a couple of innings and start Sunday’s game. Also, look for Rob Vallone to come in a relief role throughout the weekend.
“In all my time here, being on two MAAC championship teams, this is definitely the deepest pitching staff, team ever at every position,” Michael Martin, fifth-year senior, said, “but definitely on the mound. We’ve got so much talent.”
Jasper pitching is exciting, but their hitting this season is dynamic, balanced, fast, athletic and powerful. Duffy wants to exploit those abilities into a West Coast offense – creating a run per inning.
“It’s a lot more fun,” Christian Santisteban, junior slugger, said. “Guys can bunt, get on base anyway they can, steal, get into scoring position, and then big guys like me and Vin [Teixeira] and J-Mac [Joe McClennan] drive people in. It makes the offense really, really easy. It sets you up for success.”
“Everyone in our lineup is capable of getting on to start off an inning,” he added. “The top of our lineup, the best way I can put it, is they’re like a bunch of gnats. They’re annoying and hard to strikeout, get out and they’re just going to fight until they get in your way and eventually you’re going to crack and they’re going to get on base.”
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The offense struggled at times last season because the pitching was not healthy, pressuring the defense. Now with a fast outfield with Chris Kalousdian and Evan Brown, a sure-handed Teixeira at first base and McClennan moving from third-base – being filled in by sophomore Matt Forlow – over to second-base, bolstering that position.
“Losing Yo-Yo [Yoandry Galan] from last year, he was probably one of the best short-stops I’ve ever seen, played with,” Martin said, “but the defense this year from what we’ve seen in the fall, so far in the winter, I know we’ve been inside, but it’s a really solid defense. I’ve got all faith in the world that as soon as that ball comes off the nat whether its on the ground or in the air it’s going to get caught. We’ve got the fastest outfield I’ve been apart of since I’ve been a freshman here. It’s going to be really fun to watch, not a lot of places for hitters to find a hit this year.”
In the MAAC preseason poll, the Jaspers were projected to finish sixth. Duffy was surprisingly okay with that because he said the players they have have not won anything yet. His approach this year is to stay out of their way, so to speak, and let the team play and show off its talent. With the return of health, he sees it equaling to consistency mixed in with savvy vets like Joe and Scott McClennan and Martin.
Duffy projects the Canisus Golden Griffens and Fairfield Stags are the teams to beat in the MAAC, although the Siena Saints won the MAAC title last year.
“[Manhattan] had a good young team last year and they’re going to be very good this year,” Bill Currier, Stags head coach, said. “I know they have some freshman pitching, a tremendous short-stop and some outfielders. They’re very good and they’re all back this year. So we know they’re going to be even better than they were last year.”
“Last year being my first year, the transition from the beginning of the season to the end we started playing more fundamentally sound, stopped making errors and allowing the other team to get ahead of us,” Maxx Feldman, Jasper left-handed pitcher, said. “If we can minimize the errors and stay sound and kind of just play our game and not try to do anything too drastic and just stay consistent we’ll win some games.”