Baseball Poised for Another Run in 2018

Baseball Poised for Another Run in 2018

CASTLETON, Vt.  – Just over nine months since reeling in its fourth consecutive league title, the Castleton baseball team is in full swing with similar goals to remain a North Atlantic Conference powerhouse and national contender in 2018.  

Castleton baseball is coming off a season in which it tied the program record for the most wins in a single season with 34, posted the highest winning percentage of any season with at least 25 games played (.773), and won the NAC regular season and tournament title for the fourth straight year. 

The Spartans capped off their conference crown in come-from-behind fashion after dropping their first game of the tournament. Castleton rallied through the bracket to win four straight games, culminating with a pair of victories over New England College in the championship to claim its fifth NCAA Tournament appearance in the last six years.

Despite a long list of accolades in 2017, 18th-year head coach Ted Shipley has his squad focused on the future. "We did have a good team last year and it was a lot of fun," said the seven-time NAC Coach of the Year. "But 2017 is behind us now and we are looking forward to the challenges in front of us this year. If we continue to work hard and push each other, we will be a pretty good team. Our goals remain the same."

Castleton returns 23 members from last year's squad that finished 34-10 overall and 21-3 in conference play. The Spartans will look to remain one of the most dominant pitching staffs in the country after posting the lowest earned run average in all of Division III last season at 2.24. The pitching corps will have a new look this season after losing four senior starters but will rely on veteran leadership in 2018.

Sophomore Davis Mikell and junior Charles Stapleford both return to the front end of the rotation after pitching in several crucial games last season. Mikell, coming off NAC Rookie of the Year and Second Team All-Region honors, posted a 1.64 ERA with 73 strikeouts and went 6-2 with three complete games in 55.0 innings. He shut down No. 2 SUNY Cortland in his first collegiate start and tied his career high with 10 punch outs against Ithaca in the regionals. Stapleford will look to build off another strong season. The 2016 NAC Rookie of the Year made five starts on the mound last season and went 2-2 with a 3.00 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 30.0 innings of work. Stapleford has amassed 76 strikeouts and an impressive 2.67 ERA in 84.1 innings over his first two years as a Spartan.

Aaron Smith – one of the four Spartan seniors – could see time in the starting rotation after being a bullpen centerpiece throughout his career. The left-hander made nine appearances last season and went 1-0 with a 1.84 ERA in 14.2 innings. Scott Michaels looks to be a staple out of the bullpen once again after nailing six saves with a 3.38 ERA in 13.1 innings last year. Joe Gratton and Cameron Goulet could see more action on the hill this season, while newcomers Joshua Scoskie and Max Olmsted look to bolster the strong pitching staff.

Castleton returns nearly all its bats from last season's lineup that led the conference in batting average (.287), slugging percentage (.406), hits (370), and home runs (24). Juniors Pat Mumford, Deagan Poland, and Dillon Benham return in the outfield after each playing at least 34 games a season ago. Mumford led the Spartan offense with a .323 batting average and finished with 24 runs scored in 99 at-bats. Primarily out of the leadoff spot, Poland batted .321 with a .411 on-base percentage and led the team with 29 stolen bases. Benham is coming off a strong sophomore campaign in which he hit .301 with three home runs and a team-leading 36 RBI.

Dylan Bailey and Matt Jackson are back up the middle after turning in strong sophomore campaigns. Bailey and Jackson played every game at shortstop and second base and combined for 83 hits, 18 doubles, and 46 RBI. Mikell led the offense in on-base percentage (.425) and slugging percentage (.597), while hitting at a clip of .313 with 10 doubles and nine home runs as a freshman. Newcomer Matt Braman looks to make an immediate impact and provide depth in the field for the Spartans this year. 

Senior Jonathan Lindau, named the 2017 NAC Tournament MVP, returns behind the dish after posting a .279 batting average with 11 doubles, three home runs, and 25 RBI in 2017. Lindau was also exceptional behind the plate as he threw out 44 percent of base stealers (12-for-27) and committed just five errors in 43 games.

With the season opener just days away, Shipley has his squad geared up for another run. "We've got a lot of returners that we're going to look for to step up this year. We are going to count on their leadership so our entire team can reach its full potential. Our goals remain the same to work hard, be prepared to win every game, and to be playing our best baseball towards the end of April through May."

Castleton will be one of the first teams in New England to get things going in 2018 with a six-game trip to California. The Spartans open their season on Feb. 17 at Pomona-Pitzer and three days later will see defending national champion Cal Lutheran Feb. 20. After returning from the West Coast, the Spartans will play 11 straight road games before their home opener April 5 against Lyndon.