The Union Baseball program has come a long way since head coach Paul Mound first took over prior to the 2011 season.
“When I first came here six years ago I’m not sure many people knew there was a baseball program here at Union College,” said Mound.
Things have changed quite a bit since then. The men’s baseball team was recently picked as the favorite to win the Liberty League for this upcoming season in a poll conducted by the league’s head coaches.
The Dutchmen received five of a possible eight first-place votes, and tallied 58 points in total. The University of Rochester, defending Liberty League champions, placed second with 52 votes, while Clarkson finished third with 50 votes.
“I believe that we are the most talented baseball team to ever step foot on this campus,” said Mound.
“Our pitching rotation might be the best in the Liberty League,” said first baseman and pitcher Jamie Faber ’16, who drove in a team-high 26 runs last season.
“We have a really good team,” boasted outfielder Eric Egan ’16, who led the Liberty League with a .657 slugging percentage in 2015. “We’re a lot more experienced than last year,” Egan remarked.
The program has a lot of momentum entering the 2016 season. Despite a down year in 2015, the Dutchmen have won 20 games each of the last three seasons, and are just two years removed from a Liberty League championship.
“Provided that we can stay healthy, the ceiling is extremely high,” said Mound. “I think that this squad might break some current records that we hold,” he continued.
The Dutchmen will return six All-Liberty League selections from last season, including Jake Fishman ’17, who hit .477 to lead the league in batting average in 2015, while contributing a 1.48 ERA on the mound.
Despite the lofty expectations placed on the team, Mound knows Union will be tested early this season with an extremely hard schedule both out of conference and within the Liberty League.
“We have an extremely hard schedule out of the box,” said Mound. “We have dialed up our non-league schedule this year, and frankly, our league is very tough,” he assented.
The team will also be playing with heavy hearts this season, one that should have been the last for Justin Lloyd.
“He is an extraordinarily gifted baseball player and more importantly just an unbelievable person,” said Mound, “and he’s going through incredible challenges right now.”
Lloyd was diagnosed with a form of colorectal cancer just months before he would have begun his freshman season with the Dutchmen in 2013. Since then, Lloyd has transferred to Boston College, but his spirit has never left the Union campus.
“He’s definitely going to be on our minds,” said Faber, “He’s been a model for us this year.”
The baseball team has taken initiatives every year in an effort to raise funding for cancer research in honor of Lloyd who will also take part in the team’s Senior Day ceremony.
The Dutchmen get to work on Mar. 19 when they will open their season in Florida at the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational with a doubleheader against St. Scholastica.
Egan concisely summed up the team’s prospects saying, “It should be a fun year.”