Written by CBBSN Scout, Marc Delucchi
(Photo via the Kenyon College Baseball website, seen here)
The Kenyon Lords enter the 2018 season, manager Matt Burdette’s 23rd year at the helm, coming off one of the best offensive years in program history. They set the all-time single-season record for home runs as a team with 26 and sophomore third baseman Matt Contreras had the fourth most dingers in a single season ever with six. The team averaged over six runs per game and held an incredible triple slash line of .307/.375/.451. However, they were not the only ones hitting. Their opponents hit .309/.399/.423 and averaged over seven runs a game leading to the Lords’ disappointing 17-23 record (6-13 in conference play).
Now the team returns looking to fill some holes in their lineup and hopefully construct a pitching staff to allow them to take advantage of their strong offense. It’s worth noting this is not a team benefiting from playing in an extremely hitter-friendly environment. McCloskey Field is 330 feet down the lines, 375 feet to the alleys, and 400 feet to straightaway center. There is legitimate hitting talent on this squad. Right fielder Mikey Arman and second baseman Matt von Roemer – each named to the All-NCAC Teams in 2017 – are entering their senior seasons and hope to finish their Kenyon careers on a high note.
After beginning his career at Division-I Central Connecticut State, Arman transferred to Kenyon where he has held down right field for the past two seasons. He is hoping to build off a strong summer league performance with the Geneva Red Wings in the Perfect Game Summer League where he was named an All-Star alongside NCAA talent from across the country (including the SEC). von Roemer will finish his career as a four-year starter, penciled into the lineup since his first day in Gambier, Roemer’s line-drive approach has allowed him to maintain a .371 average over 439 at-bats.
The team is only losing one starter from last season in shortstop Phillip Nam. Nam was tied with Contreras for the team lead in homers last season and helped generate a lot of punch in the middle of the lineup, but his limited range made him a defensive liability at shortstop (leading the team with 14 errors). To fill the hole there may be some shuffling around the infield. Contreras has elite speed and that could give him the range for short, von Roemer has experience on the other side of the infield as well. Cormac Jewel and Paul Siciliano played the utility roles last year so expect them to compete for regular spots as well. While both have potential, neither showed the bat that Nam did in their limited opportunities. However, even if both new players struggle at the plate, the progression of players like Contreras, Arman, von Roemer, power-hitting first baseman Alec Manning, catcher Max Warren, and a group of outfielders led by Patrick O’Leary returning from impressive freshmen seasons should be able to pick up the slack.
Flipping the diamond around, the Lords’ rotation has more reason for hope than last year’s numbers might suggest. Their entire rotation will be returning with the exception of Connor Farrell and Tyler Roldan who combined for less than 10 percent of the team’s innings. In fact, many of their best pitchers last season were some of their youngest. O’Leary (who led the team with a 4.96 ERA) was brought in to man the outfield, but after head coach Matt Burdette found out he had experience on the rubber he threw O’Leary out there and quickly became one of the team’s top starters.
Will Allen (another sophomore) flashed great command that allowed him to work deep into games. The wildcard for the rotation is senior Jesse Bogacz. Bogacz has the best stuff on the team by a longshot. In his 150 career innings for the Lords, he’s struck out 168 (over 10 K/9), but wavering control (over 5.5 BB/9) has made him much more susceptible to big rallies. The southpaw showed similar issues in the Northwoods Summer League where he had 48 strikeouts in less than 40 innings, but walked 45 hitters. If he can put together a complete season, Bogacz is capable of being the ace the Lords need to round out a young rotation. Beyond O’Leary and Allen, the team returns closer Luke Calcei along with swingman Will Oakley and reliever Ross Scheinberg.
One intriguing recruit to watch is freshman John Henry Fowler from Highlands Latin High School in Kentucky. He offers a versatile skill set after both pitching and playing shortstop in high school. His fastball reportedly can reach the mid-80s and his long 6-2 frame offers room for further projection.
The Lords have a lot of intriguing pieces in 2018 that could break the team out of their recent stretch of mediocrity (over the last three seasons the team is 59-59). To follow how their season unfolds, tune into the Kenyon Sports Connection where Clayton Coffman, Joe Chatz, Jimmy Bloomfield, and I will bring you all the action.