Manchester University
Oak Leaves

April 22, 2016

HIT AND RUN Sophomore Eric Knepper takes a swing for the Spartans.

Manchester Baseball Pushing toward Playoffs

Aaron Lloyd

The Manchester baseball team is off to a shaky start to the season after opening with an overall record of 15-13. The Spartans are currently sitting in fourth place in the HCAC standings with a 9-6 record while they head into the toughest part of their schedule, facing two of the top teams in the conference over the next two weeks.

This past weekend the Spartans went up against Hanover. They came out on top in that game, with sophomore Taylor Kopplin getting the win. On Saturday the team again competed against the Panthers in a doubleheader, but lost both of the games, dropping the Spartans from third to fourth place in the conference standings.

The season has not been all bad for the Spartans, though, as many players are at the top of the conference rankings in the offensive categories. Freshman outfielder Tyler LaFollette was leading the conference in batting average before this weekend, as he sits in third place now with an average of .375. Senior shortstop Sean Knepper is coming up behind him with a .361 average, followed by junior first baseman Tailur Szarenski with an average of .353. As a team, the Spartans have an average of .289.

Szarenski, as well as junior outfielder Chad Schultz, is in second place with 28 runs batted in. Knepper is not only toward the top of the rankings in batting average, but also is tied for the lead in home runs by going yard six times this season.

Pitching has not been a strength of the Spartans this season with their top pitcher, Kopplin, posting a record of 4-4 with an earned run average of 2.91. Kopplin has also K’d 38 batters this season. Eck is 3-3 on the season with an ERA of 5.13. With Eck and Kopplin being the only consistent starters, other players who have gotten the nod are McDonald, sophomore Steve Pinarski, and junior Cory Ferguson. Relievers that have come in are junior Mason Neuman and sophomore Devon Sheward. Neuman, who missed the entire 2015 season with an injury, has a 6.39 ERA in 25 innings pitched. Many of Neuman’s teammates are happy to have him back with the team and back on the mound. “It’s nice having a leader back on the mound,” Sheward said. “His experience and leadership have helped the team tremendously this season.”

As of late, freshman Christian Smith has been receiving the nod at second base. Smith, who rarely got to see the field at the beginning of the season, has started the last seven games. In his time on the field, he has put up a .257 batting average and a .907 fielding percentage. “I’m just taking everything in one day at a time,” he said. “I think that we have the ability to make a push in the conference playoffs.”