New Hampshire Hardball

PSU relying on local talent

PLYMOUTH – The Plymouth State University baseball team has been picked to finish fifth in the Little East Conference (LEC) in 2019, after a vote of the league’s head coaches.

The University of Massachusetts Boston, which is No. 9 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA)/ preseason poll, edged out No. 12 Southern Maine as the favorite to win the conference. The Beacons, defending LEC champions, grabbed five first-place votes for 61 points, with USM collecting the other four first place votes and 60 points.

The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth was third with 45 points, just ahead of Eastern Connecticut State (44). PSU held the fifth spot (30) ahead of Castleton (29), Rhode Island College (28), Keene State (14) and WestConn (13).

The Panthers posted a 16-19 overall record and went 5-9 in the highly competitive LEC a year ago, and are looking to reach the postseason for the third time in four years.

Senior Josh Goulet (Nashua) is the Panthers’ lone returning all-star after earning All-LEC Second Team accolades a year ago. Appearing in all 35 games, he posted a .302/.421/.450 slash line while leading the conference with 20 stolen bases in 22 attempts. The outfielder was tied for the team lead with seven doubles, his three triples were third-most in the league and he belted a pair of home runs. Goulet also drew 24 walks, good enough for top-ten in the conference.

Classmate Ryan Richard (Berlin) served as the prototypical leadoff hitter a year ago, leading the Panthers’ regulars with a .350 batting average and impressive .500 on-base percentage. The infielder was also a threat on the base paths, embracing coach Clay Jenkins’ aggressive style by going 18-of-19 in stolen base attempts.

Junior Jimmy Zimolka (Londonderry) and senior Geoff Kayo (Londonderry) are two more Panthers to keep an eye on. Zimolka, a 5-10 outfielder, hit .309 with 34 hits, four doubles, 17 RBIs and 18 steals, Kayo ripped seven two-baggers and knocked in 18 runs as an infielder.

Senior Dylan Gaita served as the staff ace a year ago, posting a 3-3 mark with three saves over 11 appearances and seven starts. He led the staff with a 3.50 ERA, while recording 49 strikeouts for a 9.52 K/9 average. He threw a gem against then No. 23 USM in April, scattering seven base hits and allowing just one earned run while striking out eight over eight innings of work.

Classmate David Sampson and junior Tyler Brown (Littleton) both logged more than 30 innings last spring with strong strikeout rates, as the pair combined to go 4-5 with three saves. The duo paired for an impressive victory against #5 UMass Boston late last season, when Brown worked six scoreless innings while surrendering just three hits to earn the win, and Sampson closed out the game with 1.1 hitless innings to pick up the save.

Senior Chris Mansour and juniors Gavin Cook (Littleton) and CJ Bilodeau (Rindge) will likely split time behind the plate. Mansour appeared in 12 games with twice as many walks as strikeouts, while Cook and Bilodeau saw success in limited action for the Panthers.

Plymouth State opens the year against Nichols College at the New England Baseball Complex in Northborough, Mass. on Mar. 2, before heading south for the team’s annual spring trip. PSU will play eight games in eight days, before heading back to New England. The Panthers’ home opener is scheduled for Apr. 6, a twin bill against UMass Boston.

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