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Wildcat Baseball 2022 Season Opener Friday Night

by | Feb 16, 2022

Davidson Baseball starts the 2022 season on Friday night.

When Davidson’s Rucker Taylor sits down to pencil in his first starting lineup this weekend, he’s got options. Many of them, in fact.

That’s just fine for the fourth-year head coach of the Wildcats, who leads his team into the 2022 season Friday when Lehigh visits Wilson Field at 6 p.m. to start a three-game series.

An experienced group returns from a team that went 27-24 a year ago, and it means the Wildcats can mix and match as necessary to optimize their performance.

“We think it’s the most depth and returners with college playing time we’ve had in a while,” says Taylor. “The 2019 team might be the best comparison with some juniors and seniors that have played a lot as well as some sophomores that did nice things as freshmen.”

Right at the top of the list are returning Atlantic 10 First Team picks Trevor Candelaria and Nolan DeVos.

Candelaria, now a senior outfielder, was a versatile star a year ago, hitting .285 with 17 doubles, 11 home runs and 32 RBIs. He led the team with a .960 OPS, 99 total bases, 40 runs scored, 13 stolen bases and by slugging .576.

“Trevor being voted a captain by his teammates was an obvious move,” says Taylor. “He’s been a leader since he stepped on campus. He does a lot of things on and off the field well. This year, he has pushed the competition piece with himself and his teammates, and that has benefited us a lot.”

DeVos, a junior right-hander, led the A-10 with eight saves last season and was the most effective Wildcat on the mound, posting a team-best 1.48 ERA in 19 appearances and 30.1 innings. He was 5-0, struck out 39, while walking 14, and held opposing hitters to a .191 average. Now, he’s leaving the bullpen behind and transitioning to a starting role.

“Nolan has made many jumps in a short time,” says Taylor. “He’s likeable and competes at a high level. I think his teammates like him a lot, I know we do as coaches. He’s grown into more of a leadership role with the success he’s had, and he’s handled it well.”

In the field
In all, seven position players return after playing in at least 40 games last year, with four — Candelaria, Jacob Hinderleider, Henry Koehler and Ryan Wilson— playing in at least 50.

Infielder John Hosmer is back after hitting 10 home runs and leading the team with 35 RBIs a year ago. Koehler, a corner outfielder, was third on the team with 48 hits and a .271 average and led the way with two triples. Hinderleider is set to take over at shortstop after a solid defensive year at second base and improved pop at the plate with eight doubles, six home runs and 26 RBIs. Wilson, as a freshman, was the only Wildcat to start all 51 games, often hitting at the top of the lineup and playing first base. He was an impact player right away, hitting six doubles, six homers, driving in 29, swiping 11 bases and leading the team with 17 hit-by-pitches.

Parker Nolan, a team captain along with Candelaria and pitcher Blake Hely, is back to roam the outfield, and the duo of Garrett Browder and Michael Carico returns after splitting catching duties. After contributing a year ago, versatile pieces Jake Wilhoit, Tyler Douglas and Joe Haney should see expanded roles in their second seasons.

On the mound
Talent, experience and options are at a high quantity on the mound as well.

Along with DeVos, the Wildcats return most of those who toed the rubber last year, as well as some promising newcomers. Those back accounted for 346.2 innings last season, 83 percent of the work.

Hely was the most effective starter last season, posting a 3.78 ERA and 4-2 record in 64.1 innings in his second season on the weekend rotation. Alex Fenton and Gabe Levy each started 12 games a year ago, also in their second years as weekenders, with Levy tying DeVos for the team lead in wins (5) and logging the most innings (70.1) and strikeouts (65). And lefty Ryan Feczko showed early-season promise (4.00 ERA) as a starter before an injury sidelined him.

Will Schomberg and Jacob Peaden return in their flex roles, from starting to long relief to closing, while Danny Rosenfield, Brian Craven, Bennett Flynn and Nick Shedleski can also provide proven performances from the bullpen. Taylor says Ryan Kutz has shown significant strides in the offseason.

By all accounts, team chemistry has improved simply because there are less challenges with the pandemic than this time a year ago. The hours spent together at the field are no longer the only hours spent together, and it’s paid off.

“Our returners have welcomed the younger guys with open arms,” said Taylor. “It’s been really nice to see. The new guys have come in and blended in right away. This has been a fun group to be around. The leadership from many levels has been excellent.”

The Wildcats have added a promising crop of newcomers, too, including speedy outfielder Troy Johnson, infielder Eli Putnam and junior college flame-thrower Toren Herrick.

4: Pro parks to play in (Charlotte, Durham, High Point, Kannapolis)

4: Season for Rucker Taylor as head coach

4: Davidson alumni coaching Division I baseball teams: Mik Aoki (Morehead State), Brett Boretti (Columbia), Pete Hughes (Kansas State), Chris Pollard (Duke)

4: Wildcat graduates playing post-grad years in Division I: Alex Fedje-Johnson (Michigan), Ruben Fontes (Northwestern), Matt Frey (Michigan), Jacob Walker (Arizona State)

Other numbers of note
2: Returning First Team All-Conference picks (Trevor Candelaria, Nolan DeVos)

30: Games played in North Carolina to start the season, including 24 at Wilson Field

1902: First season of Davidson baseball

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