DOVER, Del. - The familiar pinging sound of baseballs connecting with aluminum bats rung clear as the February sky on Monday afternoon as the Wesley College Baseball team got in some batting practice, taking advantage of the uncharacteristically pleasant weather.
Despite the mid-January blizzard and the dustings here and there, Dover has seen a mild winter. All of the snow dumped by Winter Storm Jonas has melted in the lukewarm temperatures and has allowed the Wolverines to get out on the baseball field extremely early in the preseason.
Wesley finished last season with a 12-19 season mark but went 8-10 in conference play, enough to earn the fifth seed. The team bowed out of the CAC Tournament, falling in extra innings to second-seeded Salisbury and dropping their next game to Christopher Newport.
"We're competing for the conference title and the first part of that is reaching the conference tournament," said Head Coach Bret Underwood. "We've had a good run these past couple of years and I think we're in a good spot to make it this year. Once we're in the tournament we'll see what happens."
The Wolverines do look poised for a postseason run as they return their top four inning-eaters on the pitching staff with Eric Willey (48.0 innings pitched), Connor Springsteen (43.0 IP), Sam Meck (40.1 IP) and Cody Simet (30.2 IP) each back for the Navy and White this year. Springsteen led the pitching staff in strikeouts last season with 32 while Simet allowed just 12 earned runs for a team-best 3.52 ERA.
"Meck and Willey will be the leaders of our pitching staff again this year, but we have a lot of guys who got experience last year," said Underwood about his pitching rotation.
At the plate Wesley will seek to replace Matt Domian and Tyler Hunter, who batted .373 and .368 last season, respectively. Eric Speidel and Mike Calvarese return as the Wolverines top two offensive threats. Speidel hit .319 last season while scoring a team-high 35 runs. He also led the Wesley team with three home runs and finished second on the team in stolen bases with 13. Calvarese batted .284 in 21 starts last year, including seven multi-hit games. Dre Jones will look to bounce back from an underwhelming 2015 season during which he was recovering from surgery.
"The thing I'm looking forward to the most this year is that these guys are really coming together," said senior Dre Jones. "The more you build chemistry... it seems like winning comes from good chemistry."
The Wolverines will begin the season on February 19 when they travel to Hampden-Sydney for a three-game tournament. The squad then plays four straight home doubleheaders against non-conference competition before opening the Capital Athletic Conference slate on the road at St. Mary's on March 9. The Navy and White will travel to last season's CAC champions Frostburg State on March 26 before taking on local rival Salisbury on March 30. The team will look to wrap up their conference schedule in April and qualify for the CAC playoffs which begin April 19.