Men's baseball looks for success in Whalen's 30th season
Bob Whalen is starting his 30th season as head coach of Dartmouth baseball.
With the Dartmouth baseball team tying a program record last season by reaching 11 consecutive seasons with more wins than losses in Ivy League play, head coach Bob Whalen, now in his 30th season at Dartmouth, is hungry for even more. When asked simply what his goal for the season was, his answer was succinct: win a championship.
The Big Green, picked to finish third in the Ivy League this season, returns a strong nucleus from last year’s third place finish in the Ivy League, especially on the position side of the ball.
Led by co-captain Matt Feinstein ’19, seven starting bats are returning, with the notable exception of 2018 Ivy League Player of the Year Dustin Shirley ’18. Whalen pointed to his infield as a particular strength, with all four starters returning.
The infield includes star seniors Sean Sullivan ’19 (.340 AVG/.456 OBP/.388 SLG last season) at second base and Steffen Torgersen ’19 (.310/.351/.423) at third. Two-year starter Nate Ostmo ’19 (.262/.337/.407) has filled in at shortstop, and Michael Calamari ’20 (.246/.275/.401) is starting at first base, having tied for the home run lead last year with five. Bennett McCaskill ’21 (.245/.345/.398) is starting at catcher after having a successful rookie year, especially on defense.
At outfield, Feinstein (.271/.352/.347) starts at right field and lefty Kade Kretzchmar ’22 comes in as true freshman at left field. Trevor Johnson ’20 (.250/.387/.386 in 2017), despite missing nearly all of last year due to an injury, is back at center field as one of the best base runners on the team, having stolen 17 of 19 attempts successfully as a rookie. Blake Crossing ’20 (.319/.435/.354) is again the designated hitter after being one of the most consistent bats in the lineup last season.
Whalen points to the veteran leadership as a reason for optimism in the team’s chances this season, and he said he is excited for much of the lineup to return from last year, as well as for Johnson’s healthy recovery.
Kretzchmar is the only new starting hitter on the team this season, and while there is a lot of veteran experience starting, the team has quality depth behind them. Ben Rice ’22 offers potential on offense as a left-handed hitting catcher, and Bryce Daniel ’22 can play second or third, having played shortstop in high school.
Pitching has more questions early on, but Whalen is confident that a lot of the younger players will step up. The star ace is co-captain Cole O’Connor ’19 (5-4, 4.50 ERA, 70 IP last season) who has strong control and four pitches in his arsenal. Behind him in the rotation is more of a question, as the rest of the starters are leaving, including a few who are playing in the Minor Leagues.
Tyler Fagler ’20 (1-1, 6.00, 18.0) is looked upon to contribute in the rotation, and Whalen points to the fact that two of the starting pitchers will be freshmen, including Chase Jeter ’22 and Nathan Skinner ’22. Jonah Jenkins ’21 missed much of last season after transitioning from catcher to pitcher last year but is expected to make a positive contribution. In the bullpen, star Austen Michel ’20 (3-2, 3.38, 45.1 IP) was expected to give a steady presence to start the season, but he is currently injured. While his return will be strongly desired, Jenkins, Trystan Sarcone ’22 and Alec Vaules ’20 are expected to compete for playing time.
Co-captains Feinstein and O’Connor both said that the team has a strong camaraderie and an overall strong group dynamic. Both said that when they were freshmen, upperclassmen on the team made them feel involved and important right away, and that they want to do the same with the freshmen this year. Feinstein said he thinks building camaraderie is key to a successful season.
“Everyone takes their own role, and as a close team, everyone is on the same page,” Feinstein said.
Looking ahead, Feinstein said he hopes to continue his career into professional baseball, potentially looking into the MLB. O’Connor’s outlook was more simple. For him, success will come from “controlling what you control; going one pitch at a time.”
While this team has a lot of talent, it faces a challenging path to win their first Ivy League championship since 2010, including a three-game series down the road against Yale University and Columbia University, picked to finish first and second in the Ivy League, respectively. Despite the tough road ahead, the team is extremely confident and dialed in to the goal of reaching the NCAA tournament once again.
Looking at this team, it’s hard not to get excited because of its immense potential. Both coaches and players are aware of the goals they can reach, and if everything goes right, there’s a good chance that Dartmouth will take back the Ivy League crown for the first time in a decade.