The Fairfield baseball season begins in just nine days, and the Stags are looking to improve on a very good 2014 season in which the team went 32-24, the best record in program history. The team made it to the 2014 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship game against Siena, but fell at a close score of 4-3.

Going into the 2015 season, the Stags will be without a number of players integral to last year’s success, most notably, catcher, outfielder and captain Ryan Plourde ‘14. Plourde started in every game and led the team in runs and hits. He was named to the MAAC Baseball Championship All-Tournament Team as well as the All-MAAC First Team, and signed with the Chicago White Sox over the summer.

However, the Stags surely have a backup ready for him at the catcher position with Sebastian Salvo ‘15. Salvo started in just 29 games last year and led the team with a .354 average and sported a .985 fielding percentage. Now, presumably taking over the everyday job behind the plate, there is no reason to believe that Salvo cannot produce in the 2015 season.

Fortunately, the Stags only lost two other starters to graduation last year: infielder Rob LoPinto ‘14 and Jack Giannini ‘13.

This season, however, will be very much about Fairfield’s pitching staff. The Stags will be welcoming back with open arms their three main starting pitchers: E.J. Ashworth ‘15, Mike Wallace ‘16 and Aaron Howell ‘16. Ashworth finished last season with a 6-2 record to go along with a 2.85 earned run average. He has been given high expectations for this season by being named to the Preseason All-MAAC First Team. Aside from him, Wallace and Howell held 3.32 and 4.50 ERAs last season respectively, and will look to build on their pitching prowess this season. Mike Wallace’s brother, Gavin Wallace ‘18, will be pitching with the team as well this year, and could make an impact of his own on the mound.

Aside from the starters, Fairfield is also returning a number of bullpen aces to the team in 2015, including Andrew Gallagher ‘15, Tucker Panciera ‘15, Joe Randall ‘16 and Tim Duggan ‘16. Each of these relievers held an ERA below four and Gallagher led the whole team with a 1.64 ERA, allowing just four earned runs throughout the entire season. Aside from them, the Stags will be greeting a large freshman pitching class this year, some of whom may become bullpen or even starter worthy.

The offense for Fairfield is going to be above average this season as well. The Stags are returning six of their usual starting lineup, and have some fine players off the bench to place in those roles.

The most necessary piece to this starting lineup is third baseman Jake Salpietro ‘16. Salpietro was named to the Preseason All-MAAC First Team and is the powerhouse of this team. Last year, he led the team in most offensive categories, including doubles (16), home runs (five) and runs batted in (44). If he puts up similar, if not better, numbers this year, Fairfield’s offense should just soar throughout the season with him hitting in the cleanup spot. The one thing he will have to improve upon, though, is his fielding. Last season, Salpietro held a .862 fielding percentage and committed a team-high nine errors. Aside from improving in the field, he will surely be the cog that keeps Fairfield’s lineup running smoothly.

Other notable players returning to the lineup include speedster outfielder Alex Witkus ‘15, who stole a team-high 29 bases last season, outfielder Billy Zolga ‘15 who did not commit a single error last season and infielder Brendan Tracy ‘16 who led the team with 306 putouts.

Overall, the Fairfield baseball team will benefit from having the core of their players back from the 2014 team that led the best season in program history. In addition to that, those aforementioned players now have the experience of playing on a big stage, something that may very well happen again this season.

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