Baseball picked to finish fifth in PSAC East: With veterans returning at key positions, BU hopes to make a run at the playoffs

Evin Hartsock, Managing Editor

     The Bloomsburg University baseball team has been picked to finish fifth in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Eastern Division according to the league’s preseason coaches’ poll that was released late Friday morning.

     Defending National Champion West Chester was picked to win the east after receiving seven of the eight first-place votes. Shippensburg and Millersville were picked second and third, respectively, while East Stroudsburg earned the other first-place nod and was tabbed fourth. Lock Haven, Kutztown, and Mansfield rounded out the poll.

     Last season, the Huskies finished with a 22-24-1 overall record and a 9-16-1 mark in the Eastern Division. Despite falling just short of making the conference tournament, Bloomsburg should certainly be in the mix to make the postseason for the first time since 2014 with several key veterans returning to lead the team. Head coach Mike Collins enters his 12th season as the head coach of the Huskies and comes into the 2018 campaign just 11 wins shy of 250 for his career. He is second on the school’s all-time coaching victories list.

     Expected to lead the Huskies in 2018 is redshirt senior outfielder Austin Edgette who looks to build off of another productive season a year ago. Edgette earned his second consecutive All-Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) East First Team selection last season after batting .314 with two home runs, 30 runs batted in, and 11 stolen bases. He finished second on the team in runs scored (40), hits (55), doubles (15), walks (25), and stolen bases (11). Last month, Edgette was named to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) Preseason All-Atlantic Region Second Team.

     He enters his senior season with a career .366 batting average (164-of-448) with five home runs, 82 runs batted in, and 31 stolen bases. He has also scored 118 runs in his three seasons. He is tied for sixth on the school’s all-time list in runs scored, tied for ninth in stolen bases, and needs 72 hits to become the program’s all-time hits leader.

     Fellow outfielder, sophomore Cole Swiger looks to also be a reliable bat for the Huskies in 2018 after a successful rookie campaign. Swiger was tied for second on the team with seven home runs last season and finished fourth on the squad with 34 runs batted in while batting .294 on the season. Also expected to provide leadership for the Huskies is junior catcher Ryan Shiffer who will be looking to carry momentum into 2018 after a breakout sophomore season last year. Shiffer had career-highs in batting average (.344), RBI (35), and home runs (7), and finished among the top three on the team in all three categories.

      On the mound, senior Mike Warren returns for the Huskies after winning four games in nine appearances (eight starts) in 2017. Warren posted a 4-3 overall record with a 5.70 earned run average and struck out 48 batters in 53.2 innings. He finished second on the team with three complete games. Junior Ashton Raines had a fine year in his first season as a starter in 2017 as he went 4-4 with a 5.59 ERA in 12 appearances (11 starts). He led the team in strikeouts (58) and complete games (6). Keep an eye on sophomores Chad Cooperman and Brett Alaimo in particular, who both pitched some very productive innings last season.

     The Huskies will bring seven newcomers into the fold in 2018 but the biggest ]Mahwah, N.J./Mahwah) who missed all of 2017 with an injury. Two years ago, Woelfel batted .336 with two home runs and 15 runs batted in. He finished second on the team with eight stolen bases and should provide a big presence, along with Edgette, at the top of the Huskies’ lineup.

     The BU baseball team will look to replace the production of Tyler Benson, who graduated last season and was drafted by the San Diego Padres. In his last season as a Husky, Benson hit for .377 while starting all 47 regular season games for Bloomsburg. Benson was very successful with the bat as he had 60 hits, 41 RBIs, and eight home runs.

    The 2018 campaign is slated to get underway on Friday, February 23, at the Builder Invitational hosted by the Newport News Apprentice School.