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Let’s play baseball: fresh faces ready for season

“The team is looking good this year,” said head Guilford College baseball coach Nick Black ‘02. “(There are) lots of new faces meshing in with the returning team.”

Guilford’s baseball season is officially underway. With many new faces, and plenty of returning players, the team has high hopes for an exemplary season.

“A big attribute of this season’s team is a large number of new players,” said Assistant Athletic Director and Sports Information Director David Walters.

Guilford’s baseball team has a total of 44 players on the roster this year. Fifteen of those are first-years.

“Somewhere between a third and a half of this year’s roster is comprised of students who were not on the team last year,” said Walters. “New students are going to have to mesh with the returning students.”

In addition to the 15 first-years, there are also four new faces that transferred to Guilford.

“Our team is looking very strong so far this season,” said junior pitcher Caleb Gaster. “We all seem to have our heads straight, and we look forward to competing this season.”

Although the amount of new faces creates a lot of questions about how the team will do this season, hopes are still high for the new – and young – Guilford roster.

The team is starting off 2016 with a record of 2–3, as of Feb. 13. After a five-day break, the team will be back in action on Feb. 18, versus Castleton University, and again on Feb. 20, versus Bluefield State. Both of these games are home events.

Castleton and Bluefield State are not Old Dominion Athletic Conference members, but the Quakers will still fight hard to get some early non-conference victories. 

“The first goal needs to be gaining entrance into the ODAC tournament,” said Walters. “It’s been a couple seasons since Guilford competed there.”

The ODAC is going to be full of stiff competition as Guilford was picked tenth in the ODAC preseason coach’s poll.

“I will say that the ODAC is one of the toughest baseball conferences in Division III baseball,” said Washington and Lee University head baseball coach Lucas Jones. “Every ODAC opponent is looked at as a top six team in our league.”

With a preseason coach’s ranking that is one point away from Washington and Lee’s, the Quakers are determined to show their skills.

“I know Coach Black well,” said Jones. “He will have an excellent team on the field this spring. Like every ODAC game, when they come to Lexington in March, it will be extremely competitive and a tough series.

“We are looking forward to the challenge.”

So now the question lies, do the Quakers have what it takes to compete at the top of the ODAC?

“This is my first season here,” said Gaster. “We have had many team practices trying to get our team bond together so that we can be a strong force … I definitely think we will be one of the stronger ODAC teams this season.”

The team is full of ambition, and with only a few short weeks until the ODAC play begins, the Quakers are fired up and ready for action.

John Todd, a junior pitcher who is starting his third season with the Quakers, has a similar mindset about the team’s potential.

“We will be right up there at the top with the other teams in the ODAC,” said Todd.

But it is not only the Quakers who believe they will be do well in ODAC play. Other teams and head coaches in the ODAC are also predicting the Quakers to be a powerhouse this season.

“We have the utmost respect for Guilford and Coach (Nick) Black,” said Shenandoah University head baseball coach Kevin Anderson. “His teams are always well-prepared and represent the game of baseball, and college, in first-class fashion.”

Ranked first in the ODAC preseason coach’s poll, Shenandoah University won the 2015 ODAC baseball championship.

Similarly, the number two ranked team in the ODAC preseason coach’s poll, Randolph-Macon College, is predicting Guilford to be dominant this season.

“I know Coach Black will have his team ready,” said Randolph-Macon College head baseball coach Ray Hedrick. “I fully expect them to be one of the teams competing for the championship at the end of the season.”

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