2017 Baseball Preview: Mountaineers Selected Fourth in NECC Preseason Poll (With Link to CBS6 Interview of Coach Gage)

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BENNINGTON, Vt. – After coming off its winningest season in program history, the Southern Vermont College baseball team is ready to make another run at the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) title in 2017.

The league announced the results of its preseason poll on Tuesday with the Mountaineers being tabbed by Conference coaches to finish fourth in the standings this season.

Link to CBS6 WRGB Albany Interview with Coach Gage

"We believe we have a very talented and deep team this year," remarked SVC fifth-year head coach Dave Gage. "We will be challenged with our schedule and look forward to competing against some of the best teams in the country to prepare us for another competitive year in the NECC. Each and every year is a new year, and we are excited for the 2017 campaign. If we stay together through adversity and continue to strive for excellence, 2017 can be a special year for our baseball program."

Around this time last February, SVC was selected to tie for last place in the NECC for 2016. Instead, the Mountaineers turned heads from all over New England and earned their first postseason tournament berth since 2011 with a 10-8 mark against the league—taking the third seed in the playoff bracket.

SVC upset No. 2 Elms College to break the team's all-time wins record with its 19th victory of the season, and the squad then went on to defeat EC once more to get a spot in the championship round. Southern Vermont fell to top-seeded Mitchell, finishing the year with an overall record of 20-20. That was just the third time in program history that the Mountaineers ended a season at, or above, the .500 mark.

"Making it to the championship last year was a major feat for our program," noted the SVC skipper. "However, this is a brand-new team with new leadership and a lot of young guys who are hungry to prove they belong. Every year, we learn from the previous seasons, and I hope we have learned that— when our team has a strong bond— special things can happen."

Gage brings back 14 members of the 2016 team while welcoming 12 new faces to the squad. Among those returners are four seniors and four junior Mountaineers as SVC graduated only two players last year.

"Our juniors and seniors have seen the program grow over the last four years and have plenty of experience to lean upon," Gage added. "Knowing how competitive each team in the NECC is will be a benefit for our team this year."

Included in the senior group are captains and right-handed pitchers Dylan Angelo (Amsterdam, N.Y.) and Joshua Hay (South Glens Falls, N.Y.). They are joined by classmates R.J. Henle (Plantation, Fla.), another right-handed arm, and Anthony Mercuri (Ridge, N.Y.).

Angelo went 7-2 on the hill to become the team's all-time wins leader (12) while turning in a 3.1 earned run average; that record also topped the program's single-season victories mark by three. Additionally, he racked up 53 strikeouts for SVC's most in a single campaign; that puts him at 91 for his career—being just 18 shy of tying the all-time career record of 109.

Hay had the best ERA among NECC pitchers against the league last year, posting a 1.89 through seven appearances and 33.1 innings. He notched the fourth-most strikeouts in Southern Vermont single-season history with 47 for him to sit just seven short of the team's all-time mark.

Henle chalked up a pair of wins in 2016 for him to currently be just one off of tying for the team's seventh-most career victories on the bump. Mercuri tallied 36 hits on the season while crossing the plate 28 times; additionally, he cracked seven doubles and knocked in 15 runs from the dish.

Also coming back for their second year in the Mountaineer uniform are a pair of juniors who collected NECC Player of the Week honors in 2016. John Arancio (Oradell, N.J.) took home that laurel twice in-a-row while hitting .354 on the year with 12 extra-base hits; he had 18 RBI's and 29 runs scored during the year. Rob Spatafore (Mahopac, N.Y.) received the league's top weekly award once as he registered a .313 batting average, another 12 extra-base hits, 19 runs scored and 17 runs batted in.

Sophomore Dan Mason (Bloomingdale, N.J.) is another returner for Coach Gage after representing SVC on the All-NECC Third Team following his rookie season. He had the third-best batting average (.347), the third-most RBI's (25), and the top on-base percentage (.445) for the Mountaineers last year. He also scored 27 runs and tied for the most runners caught stealing (19) from behind the plate among league catchers.

Southern Vermont opens up the regular season this Friday with a doubleheader at Gallaudet University down in Washington, D.C. SVC then heads to Penn State Greater Allegheny the following weekend before embarking on its annual Spring Break trip—this year going out to the west coast to take on six teams from the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Following their return from the Golden State, the Mountaineers are set to being NECC play by hosting Daniel Webster College on Saturday, March 25 for an Opening Day doubleheader. SVC will hold Senior Day on Sunday, April 30 in conjunction with a 12 p.m. first pitch against defending Conference Champion Mitchell College.

2017 NECC Baseball Preseason Poll
1. Mitchell – 46 (4) 
2. Lesley – 31 (2) 
3. Becker – 30 
4. Southern Vermont – 28 
5. Elms – 26 (1) 
6. Newbury – 21
7. Daniel Webster – 14

(Parentheses denote first-place votes)