By: Rick Bender
at UTSA (2-2)
Friday-Sunday, Feb. 22-24, 2019 | CUSA.tv
Wolff Stadium | San Antonio, Texas
• Dartmouth begins its 147th season of varsity baseball with four games at Conference USA member UTSA.
• Head coach Bob Whalen enters his 30th season with an overall record of 585-560-2, the only coach in Dartmouth history to win 500 games in any sport. Only four other Ivy League coaches have won more games at one school in any sport.
• Dartmouth is 13-16 in the first game of the season under Whalen, most recently losing at Georgia Tech last year, 10-0.
• Last year, the Big Green struggled before returning to New England, dropping 12 of their first 15 games then going 14-10-1 the rest of the way.
• In Ivy League play, Dartmouth finished with a 12-8-1 record — its first tie in league play since 1982 — to finish third. Had that tie game ended as a Big Green win, the team would have finished second and qualified for the Ivy League Championship Series for the ninth time in 11 years.
• Dartmouth has had a winning record in conference play for 11 straight seasons, tying a program record. The Big Green have also had one of the top three records in the league in 10 of those 11 seasons.
• Seven of the nine regulars from the lineup return, while the Big Green bring back 69 percent of the hits, 70 percent of the 232 runs and 63 percent of the RBIs.
• As for the pitching staff, Dartmouth has to replace two of its three weekend starters and two of the top three relievers by appearances.
• The Big Green had six players earn All-Ivy recognition in 2018, led by OF Dustin Shirley who was the Ivy League Player of the Year and the lone first-team selection.
• Four of the six All-Ivy players return for the 2018 season — seniors Matt Feinstein (OF), Cole O’Connor (RHP) and Nate Ostmo (SS) as well as junior RHP Austen Michel.
• While none of the Big Green players was selected in the MLB Draft (just the second time in the last 11 years), RHP Clay Chatham signed a free-agent contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
• Dartmouth has one player currently playing in the big leagues, that being Kyle Hendricks ’12 who is 52-33 with a 3.07 ERA in 132 career starts, helping the Chicago Cubs win the 2016 World Series and finishing third in the Cy Young voting that year.
Overall Record vs. UTSA
• These are the first games between these two schools on the diamond.
• Against current Conference USA teams, the Big Green sport a 29-32 all-time record with all but six of those contests coming against Old Dominion (26-29). The others are against UAB (1-0), Florida Atlantic (0-1) and FIU (2-2), including a 15-9 win over the Panthers in the 2010 NCAA Regional at Miami.
Scouting the Roadrunners
• UTSA opened the season by dropping two of three to McNeese State, scoring 13 runs in the three games.
• On Tuesday, the Roadrunners evened their record with a 10-7 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
• Dylan Rock leads the team with a .429 average, all on singles, Griffin Paxton has reached base 10 times on hits and five walks, and Nick Thornquist has provided pop at the plate with his three hits being a double, triple and home run.
• The pitching staff got roughed up a bit in the first two games, leaving the team ERA at 6.75, though the hurlers have posted a strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly 2-to-1 with 30 K and 16 BB.
• UTSA has struggled a bit in the field with 11 errors leading to 10 unearned runs, and opponents have stolen four bases in five attempts.
Probable Starting Pitchers
• The honor of the opening-day start this year for the second straight year goes to senior RHP and co-captain Cole O’Connor (5-4, 4.50 in 2018), who has surrendered more than four earned runs just three times in 28 career starts. UTSA will counter with RHP Karan Patel (0-1, 1.80), who surrendered four runs — only one earned — over five frames with seven strikeouts in the Roadrunners’ season opener.
• Dartmouth will dip into its youth on Saturday with freshman RHP Justin Murray making his collegiate debut in the first game of the doubleheader. He will face RHP Slater Foust (0-0, 0.00) after he twirled 4.2 shutout innings of relief last Saturday.
• The starters for the second game of the twinbill have yet to be determined, and I won’t embarrass myself by speculating here.
• Dartmouth will turn to another rookie in the finale on Sunday with freshman RHP Nathan Skinner getting the starting nod. Your guess is as good as mine as to whom UTSA will send out there.
What’s Up Next
The Big Green will head to North Carolina next weekend for four games at the USA Baseball Complex. Tulane will be the first opponent, followed by Fairleigh Dickinson in a doubleheader before wrapping up the weekend with Saint Joseph’s. Dartmouth has only played the first two once each, and never the Hawks.
Third Trip to Texas Under Whalen
With the four-game series at UTSA to open the 2019 season, Dartmouth will be making its third trek to the Lone Star State during head coach Bob Whalen‘s 30 years at the helm. The Big Green have yet to win a game in Texas during Whalen’s tenure, however, having dropped three games at TCU in 2014 and three more at Texas A&M the following year. Granted both teams were nationally ranked, so you can excuse them for not returning with a win under their belt. Oh, the last time Dartmouth played a game in Texas prior to Whalen’s arrival? 1988 in a tournament at UT-Pan American, now UT-Rio Grande Valley, and the last victory in the state was actually a forfeit against South Dakota State. Long story …
If you look up any of the preseason polls for the Ivy League, you almost assuredly will find Dartmouth exactly where it finished the 2018 campaign — third. D1Baseball, Baseball America and the Ivy League all had the Big Green pegged to miss out on qualifying for the Ivy League Championship Series for the fourth straight year after eight straight trips to the best-of-three series from 2008-15.
|Ivy League Preseason Media Poll|
|Team (1st-place votes)||Points|
Big Green Are Road Warriors …
As is custom for Dartmouth, it will begin the season on the road for an extended period. The first 23 games are scheduled to be played away from Hanover with the home opener slated for April 6 when the Big Green host Penn for an Ivy League doubleheader. The good news is that 15 of the last 19 games are all at Red Rolfe Field at Biondi Park, including four of the last five conference series.
… But Love the Homestead
Dartmouth enters the 2019 season with a 107-34 record (.759) at its home venue, Red Rolfe Field at Biondi Park, in the 10 seasons since the stadium was constructed and turf was added before the 2009 campaign. Last year the Big Green went 9-3 in the games they hosted, including a series sweep of Princeton.
2018 All-Ivy Honors for the Green
Of the six players that received recognition as All-Ivy League players from the conference coaches, four return this spring — junior reliever Austen Michel from the second team, and honorable mentions in seniors Matt Feinstein (OF), Cole O’Connor (SP) and Nate Ostmo (SS) . Gone are Ivy League Player of the Year Dustin Shirley (.314/.365/.497, 5 HR, 32 RBI) and second-team starting pitcher Jack Fossand (4-4, 4.41). During head coach Bob Whalen‘s first 29 years at the helm, he has coached 75 first-teamers, 20 more than any other program in the Ivy League. And since 2000, he has 54 of them to his credit, at least 16 ahead of the other Ivies.
Chatham Signs Free Agent Deal
Although no one from last year’s Big Green squad was not selected in the 2018 MLB Draft, Clay Chatham eventually signed a free-agent deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. One of two graduating seniors that were in the starting rotation last year, Chatham made 12 appearances out of the bullpen in the rookie-level Arizona League, striking out 26 batters in 21.2 innings.
For the second straight year, Dartmouth will feature co-captains this spring with senior right-hander Cole O’Connor reprising his role from last year, becoming the sixth player in the last 13 seasons to serve in that capacity for two seasons. Joining him is senior outfielder Matt Feinstein.
Two of the players returning to the field in 2019 finished 1-2 in on-base percentage in the Ivy League last year — senior 2B Sean Sullivan (.456)and junior IF Blake Crossing (.435). Both players also finished in the top 10 in the league in batting average with Sullivan second (.340) and Crossing seventh (.319). Yet neither received All-Ivy accolades for their prowess at the plate.
Big League Bloodlines
Over the past decade-plus, Dartmouth has had five players that had a father with big league ties. First was first baseman Mike Pagliarulo ’09 whose father of the same name manned the hot corner with the Yankees, Padres, Twins, Orioles and Rangers over 11 seasons (1984-93, ’95), hitting 134 homers in his career. Then came catcher Chris O’Dowd ’13, son of Dan O’Dowd who served as the general manager for the Colorado Rockies for 15 years through 2014. Next up was Adam Charnin-Aker, whose father Jack Aker pitched as a reliever in the big leagues for 11 years (1964-74) with the Kansas City (then Oakland) Athletics, Seattle Pilots, Yankees, Cubs, Braves and Mets, going 47-45 with a 3.28 ERA and 124 saves in 495 appearances.
The current team has two such players. Junior Trevor Johnson is the son of former Big Green first baseman/pitcher/quarterback Mark Johnson ’90, who enjoyed a seven-year stay in the bigs with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Anaheim Angels and New York Mets (1995-2002), hitting .232 with 38 homers. And sophomore Bennett McCaskill joined the roster last year after playing at Torrey Pines for his father, Kirk, who pitched for 12 seasons in the majors, winning 106 games while posting a 4.12 ERA for the California Angels and Chicago White Sox (1985-96).
Not Settling for Spares
Well, this isn’t bowling, but if there is one thing the Big Green pitching staff does, it is throw strikes. For the past decade, the staff has been one of the stingiest in the country in terms of issuing free passes. In both 2009 and 2010, the Big Green hurlers walked fewer batters per nine innings than any other Division I team. In each of the next three years, they ranked among the top 15, placing third in 2011 at 2.24 behind only Florida (1.82) and Dayton (2.18), eighth in 2012 at 2.33, and 13th in 2013 at 2.52. After two years in the top 50 at fewer than three per game, the Big Green were back near the top in 2016 (11th, 2.66), 2017 (9th, 2.63) and last year (6th, 2.75).
In the summer of 2014, Kyle Hendricks ’12 made his MLB debut with the Chicago Cubs and finished his rookie year with a 7-2 record over 13 starts with a 2.46 ERA. Five years later he is an established big leaguer who led both leagues with an ERA of 2.13 in 2016, finishing third in the Cy Young balloting and helping the Cubs win their first World Series in 108 years. In five seasons in Chicago, Hendricks boasts a 52-33 record with an ERA of 3.07 while striking out 7.6 batters per nine innings.
Two other alumni received invitations to big league camp this spring — Cole Sulser ’12 with the Tampa Bay Rays and Duncan Robinson ’16 with the Chicago Cubs. Sulser spent the past six seasons in the Cleveland Indians organization and is trying to win a spot in the bullpen. Robinson, a non-roster invitee, spent most of last year in AA before a late-season promotion for two starts at AAA, giving up just one earned run in 11 innings.
Dartmouth also has five other former players toiling in the minors:
• LHP Mitch Horacek ’13 (AA with the Rockies)
• LHP Michael Johnson ’13 (AA and AAA with the Dodgers)
• RHP Beau Sulser ’16 (A ball with the Pirates)
• RHP Michael Danielak ’16 (A ball with the A’s)
• RHP Clay Chatham ’18 (Rookie ball with the Angels)
The Big Green aren’t simply represented at the major league level by Hendricks. The National League East is home to a Dartmouth alumnus as well — Matt Klentak ’02 who is beginning his third season as the general manager for the Philadelphia Phillies. A shortstop who hit .246 in over 400 plate appearances, Klentak has the Phillies as one of the up-and-coming teams in the big leagues.