CMU club baseball enjoys record-setting 2011 season

Winding up a record-setting fall season last month, the Carnegie Mellon club baseball team is currently in the offseason and looking forward to the start of spring training in March. The Tartans finished the fall at 10–2, a franchise record, dominating the majority of their opponents.

“We had a great season, our best winning percentage ever,” said Head Coach Claudio Reilsono. “But to me it was not only a special season because of our record, but because of the type of people we have on the team.”

Due to the lack of a baseball field on Carnegie Mellon’s campus, the club team spends a lot of time traveling. On campus, the team uses the Skibo Gym arena room and the soccer field. Players also train at Stanton Heights Field, Bellevue Park, and the Baseball Training Academy (west of the city). The club has organized practices three times a week, with team weightlifting on off days. Games fall on the weekends, typically as doubleheaders on Saturdays and single games on Sundays.

“We had one of our best seasons, in part due to our great defense,” said junior utility player Pedro Cuacuas. “Our practices helped solidify our consistent defensive presence.”

The team is active both in the fall (September and October) and the spring (April and May). Conference records from the two seasons are combined to determine playoff seedings in May.

This fall was highlighted by some big wins against the Boyce campus of the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC). The last day of the 2011 fall season, Oct. 16, featured a Carnegie Mellon vs. CCAC Boyce doubleheader, with the second game going to extra innings. With that game tied 4–4 after the regulation seven innings, the Tartans’ offense pounced on Boyce in the top of the eighth. Junior second baseman Joe Barbish provided the game-winning hit to give the Tartans the 5–4 lead, and doubles by juniors Adam Gruber and Wade Brogdon ran the score up to 9–4. Sophomore pitcher Brendan MacNabb recorded the complete game in the bottom of the inning, sealing the win for the Tartans.

Brogdon led the club in hitting, batting .552 on the season and stealing a team-leading 12 bases. Junior left fielder Kyle Woltersdorf was the team leader in RBIs with 14, and he tied first baseman Eric Bruner for the team lead in home runs.

MacNabb and senior captain Bennet Poepping led the pitching staff. Poepping won four games, posting a dominant 2.57 ERA. MacNabb’s 24 strikeouts and 28.1 innings pitched were a team best this past season.

The Tartans’ offseason ends during spring break, when the team will travel to Tampa, Fla., for its annual spring training tournament. This tradition is a meaningful one for the players, as it provides the players with an opportunity to bond and connect with one another.

“Spring break baseball is vital to the preparation for our spring season. The combination of beautiful weather and good competition gears up the team for our games in April and May,” catcher Evan Fisch said.

The Tartans hope that their unprecedented 10–2 fall season will bump them into the top 15 in the National Club Baseball Association (NCBA) Division II rankings, due to be released just before spring play is underway.

“We put a lot of work in and the season went the way we planned. However, we know we’ve got to work even harder with the tough conference schedule in the spring,” Barbish said.

That schedule will feature the mighty Penn State Nittany Lions, who have dominated the NCBA’s North Atlantic South Conference.

“We have offense, defense, pitching, and a bench, and we play with a ton of passion and heart,” Reilsono said. “Our goal is for the last series of the season against Penn State to be for all the marbles. Penn State has won the conference six years in a row. We are looking to change that.”