By Hannah Bame
Matt Palm is returning as head coach for his second year for the Oiler Baseball program, and he has goals for the season in place in hopes of success.
Last season, the Oilers ended with an 18-31 (.367) overall record, being 13-17 (.433) in the G-MAC Conference. This resulted in a seventh-place finish, just missing advancing to league tournament play.
Palm describes their current feel of the upcoming season, mentioning the energy from last years’ team moving forward to this year.
“I feel great about the direction we’re heading in,” Palm said. “I thought the team last year did a really good job of establishing our culture and how we wanted to do things in the classroom, off the field, and the way we were going to compete on the field.”
Palm says the team has a competitive schedule but has plans to be in the G-MAC conference tournament in Cincinnati at the end of the year.
“Our focus is the next pitch, the next play, the next at bat,” Palm said. “When you get too far ahead of yourself, then sometimes those things don’t work out. We’ve got to take it one game at a time, focus on playing the best we can be playing by the end of the year, and if we do all that, we’ll be in the G-MAC tournament and have a chance to compete for a conference championship.”
Senior Anthony Kyle is the top returning pitcher for the Oilers. The Second Team all G-MAC pitcher had a 1-4 record with a 4.16 ERA and registered 94 strikeouts last season. Senior Bailey McCord is expected to be in the rotation again this year. McCord had a 4-4 record with a 5.74 ERA and recorded 58 strikeouts. Palm says platers are competing for other spots in the rotation, which could include senior Logan Bragg, sophomore Jacob Flaherty, as well as a talented group of freshmen; Braeden Goulet, Blaine Wynk, Carson Mellott, and Ethan Mohr.
The bullpen will be headed by senior Gavin Bailey (25 IP, 4.6 ERA, 42 K’s). Seniors Spencer Giesige and Sebastian Jones will be counted on to help solidify the bullpen.
The offense will be led by Second Team G-MAC performer Cam Farrar. The senior outfielder set school records last year with 11 home runs and 50 RBIs while hitting .324 for the season. Aiden Lao will be returning as the starting catcher after playing several different positions last year. The Third Team GMAC senior hit .332 with 4 home runs and 23 RBIs for the Oilers.
Sophomore Austin Adelman is expected to split time between first base and catcher. Returning infielders expected in the lineup is third baseman junior Andrew Micale, second baseman senior Nate Brooks, and shortstop Cole Kwiatkowski.
“Cole Kwiatkowski is someone who didn’t get to play for us last year because of injuries. He had a good fall and continues to progress,” Palm said. “We foresee that he will be our starting shortstop.”
Adding infield depth will be seniors Christian Orr and Kyron Rogers.
Farrar will be playing center field for the Oilers. Competition for the remaining spots will be junior Derek Fay and sophomore Tanner Herrera, who both saw time last season. Three freshmen outfielders have caught the eye of Palm, including Keelan Daniel, Casey Maruniak, and Andrew Williams.
Palm has brought in a talented freshman class that he plans on utilizing throughout the season.
“There’s a good core of freshman both on the mound and positionally. I think one or two freshmen will start for us in the outfield when we open up,” Palm said. “Catching-wise, I think Theo [Winings] is going to help us behind the plate. Mike [Sciortino] and Gavyn [Smith] are going to have some opportunities to contribute in the infield as well.”
Farrar is optimistic about the upcoming season.
“After last year, we’ve shown how good we can be…We just need to find a way to put it all together and play like a team all the time,” Farrar said. “If we can do that, then there is no doubt that we can compete with the top schools in our league like Ashland, Northwood, and Trevecca for a G-MAC championship.”
Farrar says the culture is there is they’re ripe for a winning season.
“It’s like a brotherhood environment,” Farrar said. “Everyone treats everyone like family and that’s what it going to take if we want to win this year.”
“I feel good about where we’re at right now and the direction we’re heading,” Palm said.
The Oilers open their season with a weekend series on Feb. 17 in Cary, North Carolina against Seton Hill University.