Dust off the diamond: What you need to know about the 2021 baseball squad

Jordan Wolff, Staff Writer

March 11, 2020, is a date that’s familiar to the Quinnipiac baseball team. That’s the last time it took the field, defeating Kennesaw State 7-5. Then, the world as we know it changed forever.

A year later, the Bobcats have a chance to step back on the field and do what they love. Last season they finished 3-11, playing all out-of-conference matchups. The 2021 season is a different story, as all of Quinnipiac’s scheduled opponents play in the MAAC.

The Bobcats were voted by the MAAC coaches to win the 2021 MAAC title in this year’s MAAC coaches preseason poll, along with senior catcher Colton Bender being named a finalist for the Buster Posey Award, which is granted to the best catcher in college baseball.

So now one may ask, what’s exactly new for this Bobcat squad? Well, it’s not about what’s new, but rather it’s about the return of some important veteran pieces.

The Quinnipiac baseball team is 1-3 after a four-game series this weekend against Monmouth. (Morgan Tencza)

Leaders in the lineup

One slight benefit collegiate athletic programs gained from the pandemic was the fact the NCAA granted seniors an extra year of eligibility. The Bobcats now have 21 of its 38 total players listed as upperclassmen, with eight being graduate students.

One of those players is graduate student outfielder Andre Marrero. Marrero returns to a Bobcat offense that was atop the MAAC in 2019 in slugging percentage (.427%), hits (575), home runs (47) and RBIs (328).

In 2019, Marrero was fourth in the MAAC in hits (74) and third in slugging percentage (.538). In the shortened 2020 season, Marrero struggled with a .125 batting average and .389 OPS. With the extra time to train, Marrero will look to get his numbers back to his 2019 totals.

Another important aspect of sports are duos. Just like Batman and Robin, Marrero has a partner in crime, graduate student outfielder Evan Vulgamore.

In 2019, Vulgamore was the player the Bobcats could count on with runners on base, as he was tied for second in the MAAC in runs batted in (55). In 2020, Vulgamore led the Bobcats in batting average (.277) and runs batted in (13).

However, not all offense is about slugging and hitting. Teams also need players who can steal bases and bunt. As for junior utility player Kyle Maves, stealing bases is his specialty.

As a freshman (2019), Maves finished seventh in the MAAC stolen bases (17). Teammate and senior infielder Ian Ostberg finished fifth in the MAAC in stolen bases (18) that year.

In 2020, Maves finished the season tied for the team lead in steals with four. Also, the Bobcats have graduate student infielder Dylan Lutz returning, who finished fourth in the MAAC in 2019 with seven sacrifice bunts. The Bobcats have a lot of experience and production coming back to their offense. But, when it comes to their pitching, that’s where the word unknown comes to mind.

Pitching prowess

The Bobcats had a three-headed monster that really hit its stride, with its peak coming during their 2019 NCAA tournament appearance.

The first part of that monster was Chris Enns, who finished sixth in the MAAC in ERA (3.47) and opposing batting average (.250).

The second part was 2019 Arizona Diamondbacks draft pick Tyler Poulin. Poulin was someone the Bobcats were amped to play behind, as he was tied for third in the MAAC with seven wins and two losses.

Then there was Christian Nicolosi, who became the ace of the staff during the 2020 season. Nicolosi finished the shortened season with a 1.80 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, a .235 batting average against, 12 strikeouts and five walks in three starts.

That three-headed monster is no longer on this team, but graduate student pitcher Colin Donnelly is a piece to look out for this season.

Primarily used out of the bullpen, Donnelly was tied for fourth in the MAAC in saves in 2019. Additionally, he led the MAAC in total runs allowed (27) and finished second in the conference in earned runs allowed (25).

The numbers are evident and so is the fact that this team has a lot of experience and talent. But, one more facet this team brings to the table is personality.

Lighting up the field

Senior catcher Colton Bender was 5-15 with two RBIs and one home run in four games this season. (Morgan Tencza)

Throughout the 2019 season, every time a Bobcat hit a home run, you saw every teammate celebrate with a giant group hug, following a football being handed to the home run hitter to run through home plate with.

During tournament time, you saw some Bobcats being playful during an ESPN interview with Quinnipiac baseball head coach John Delaney. Whether it was making funny faces behind his back or putting their arms around his shoulder, this is how the team likes to stay calm under pressure.

Every time a Bobcat got to second base, the bench erupted with joy, with the man on second leading a dance. That dance was to pump your fists twice, then swipe to represent the Bobcat logo.

There are also the in-between moments, whether it’s one teammate leading a bench-wide dance or just getting creative with chants. With similar pieces returning, look for these tendencies to continue in 2021.