FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The first month of the New Year is almost officially in the books and that could only mean one thing; the college baseball season is right around the corner. The Lehigh baseball team will officially kick off practice January 29 in preparation for its season opener on February 26. The Mountain Hawks return several players from last season and everyone is excited to get back to work.
“There is a long layover after the winter break until we start practicing,” senior Ken Longernecker said. “The first day of practice is always fun and as a whole I expect the intensity level to be very high. Everyone is really excited and I expect a real positive atmosphere.”
Lehigh started training in the fall to get its roster set and to start working on things for the season. Because of the weather at this time of the year the team might not get to see any time outside until its first official game.
“We’re pretty used to having to train indoors at this time of year,” head coach Sean Leary said. “We pre-plan for the fall and spring with a lot more emphasis on game activities in the fall. We try and maximize what we can for each season and in the winter we will go into the live cages. We will try to simulate as much as we can, but we won’t be having our full nine on any field until the season begins.”
For the first time in several years the Mountain Hawks got the chance to compete in a few scrimmages and Longernecker believes the scrimmages helped the team accomplish a lot this past fall. “In the fall we really pushed ourselves harder than we have in the past few years. We were extremely focused and really pushed ourselves conditioning wise.”
Over the winter the Mountain Hawks spent their time working on building strength and increasing speed. It also allowed the coaching staff to get some individual work in with each player.
“We went into the winter wanting to focus on building our strength and speed and we came out with some good results,” Leary said. “We made significant progress in 1-on-1 workouts and we were excited with the strength gains we saw. We’re going to follow up this week to see if they made even more gains.”
Lehigh will head into the season with a wealth of experience returning, which includes First Team All-League selection Andy Russell who led the Mountain Hawks in every major offensive category last season. The Brown and White will welcome back a total of six starting positional players, but the team will also return junior shortstop Brendan McGaheran who missed all of last season due to injury.
The Mountain Hawks will bring back a lot of pitching experience and for the first time each pitcher had a specific workout to complete that was designed for their role on the staff.
“Our pitching coach (John Bisco) designed a specific program for each pitcher,” Leary said. “This is the first time we’ve done this and we feel like it’s really going to prepare each pitcher for their role on the team. They came back from the winter break in great shape and they’re ready to go.”
Like every year there will be several new faces wearing the Brown and White, but with a veteran team there shouldn’t be any problem getting everyone adjusted.
“With this group the majority of the guys are returning players,” Longernecker said. “We have a strong core, but there will always be a couple of new faces inserted into the lineup. Once we get going it will be like flipping a switch, the chemistry will be there.”
Lehigh knows that the expectations should be high heading into the season and it comes down to doing all the small things in order to be successful.
“We need to focus on ourselves instead of the competition,” Leary said. “It’s important that we’re prepared and as confident as possible. We have to stick to our strength which is our defense and the pitchers have been working on attacking the zone. It’s important that we don’t let the other teams beat us. With a strong defense and a potent offense we should always be in games.”
Longernecker gave his thoughts on what the team needs to do to be successful. “A couple of team goals we have are to pound the strike zone and let our defense make plays. The hitters need to get quality at bats and work deep counts.”
Lehigh will kick off the 2010 season with a trip to North Carolina where it will open up the season against UNC-Wilmington on February 26 at 4:00 p.m.