The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Baseball’s Coach Miller begins inaugural season amid significant player turnover

Twelve Leopards either graduated or transferred since last season. (Photo by Hannah Ally for GoLeopards)

The first pitch of the Lafayette men’s baseball season is just two weeks away. Although the program saw historic turnover at the end of last season, the Leopards appear hungry and experienced enough to make noise in the Patriot League this season.

After the 2021 season ended with significant progress being shown, the second-to-last-place finish in 2022 was disappointing. Control of the team changed hands over the summer as former manager Tim Reilly “concluded his service” and AJ Miller ’11 took the reins.

“The adjustment has been super smooth and really amazing to watch,” junior pitcher Joe Pence said. “Coach Miller has put together an incredible staff of coaches who really know baseball and are super catered towards the players.”

Alongside Miller are coaches who have experience at the Division I level and beyond. Scott Boches, who pitched in the Mariners Organization for over five years, comes directly from Seattle to be the Leopards’ pitching coach. New hitting coach Ryan Luke, who was director of baseball operations for the Leopards in 2016, returns to the College Hill after a six-year stint at Franklin & Marshall under three-time Centennial Conference Coach of the Year Ryan Horning.

“The staff always has the players’ backs no matter what and the high expectations push us to want to be better than each other,” Pence said. “I think the main difference is definitely the contagious feeling of positivity at practice and how it affects the way we perform as well.”

Miller takes over a team that faces significant player attrition with seven seniors graduating and an additional five players transferring to other programs. Each of the five Leopards who departed early were pitchers. Among them was last year’s opening day starter Luke Benneche as well as two other players who were previously named Patriot League player of the week.

Pence believes that with the new coaches and players, the environment of Lafayette baseball has completely changed. 

“The team realizes we don’t have as many players as we have had in prior years. Because of this, we all understand that everyone is going to get a chance to play but instead of taking it for granted, I’ve noticed that all of our guys want to be the best player on the team, which has really pushed us all to train way harder and retain focus more than I’ve seen before,” Pence said.

Pence noted that the chemistry of the team will change with the roster turnover. But he said his teammates have been willing to rise to the occasion so far.

“A lot of the younger guys on the team have stepped up as leaders which helps a lot with the amount guys we had graduate. It’s definitely a competitive atmosphere,” Pence said, “But we play as a team and help each other since we know that’s the only way we are going to win games – by contributing in the best ways we can and not being jealous of one another.”

Among the players remaining is senior outfielder Pete Cuiffreda, who was just named to the Preseason All-Patriot League team. He is a two-time, second-team, All-Patriot League selection for the Leopards, and will look to help bridge the gap for an experienced team finally looking to make an impact on the Patriot League stage.

“The juniors, seniors and sophomores have only played one full season in their career due to COVID, but it was a season full of ups and downs that has given us a lot of perspective,” Pence said. “We have matured a lot since then and realize what we need to do in order to have a winning season.”

The season will kick off tomorrow with the team’s 11th annual First Pitch Dinner before the team hits the road in two weeks to play Southeastern Louisiana on Feb. 17.

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Charlie Berman
Charlie Berman, Sports Editor

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