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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Pitt-Bradford Baseball Set to Open Season in Virginia

by Scott Elliott
BRADFORD, Pa. - The Pitt-Bradford baseball team officially opens the 2017 season Saturday in New Market, Virginia, against Juniata.

It is the first of three games in two days for the Panthers and the debut of first-year head coach Zach Foster; Pitt-Bradford and Baldwin Wallace will play a double-header Sunday.

Foster is no stranger to the program, having served as an assistant for the last four years, and he starred on the mound for the Blue and Gold from 2005-08 before being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 49th round of the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.

The Bradford native is not necessarily trying to rebuild the program. Instead, he is continuing to preach the same principles he learned under former coach Bret Butler.

“The program has always had great core ethics, emphasizing discipline and fundamentals, and that is a credit to Bret Butler,” Foster said. “This is how I was brought up playing the game, and I will instill this into this team as well.”

The Panthers were one of the youngest teams in the AMCC last season and bring back a host of talent and veteran leadership in 2017.

On the mound, Pitt-Bradford returns its top four starters in seniors Justin Beimel, Matthew Hogue and Ryan Northcott and sophomore Ryan Boyer. That quartet combined to throw 230 innings last year and accounted for all 13 of the Panthers’ wins.

Seven starters return from the lineup, including all-conference performers Jay Clinger and Dalton Renn. Clinger was among the team leaders in extra base hits in 2016, and Renn was the top RBI producer.

“We look to have a big year with the bats this year, as we have added a couple key pieces that round out the order,” Foster said.

Former Panther Connor Borowski has returned to join Foster in the dugout and is tasked with instructing the Panthers’ hitters.

Foster also stressed how motivated the team is, especially after seeing its season end in extra innings in the AMCC tournament to rival Penn State Behrend last year.

“Our expectations are to continue to get better each day,” Foster said. “Our guys have their eyes on what they want to accomplish.

“My expectation is that each player will individually control what they can control, and perfect that, and in turn, we will be in a good spot come tournament time.”

Foster has been encouraged by the freshman class and admits a few are pushing for starting roles. He’s particularly excited about the additions to the pitching staff. The Panthers will rely on their experience, something they lacked at times last year, in the early going as the newcomers adjust to the college game.

Pitt-Bradford was picked fifth in the league’s preseason coaches’ poll, and the Panthers are focused one goal, building up to the conference postseason tournament.

“We have one common goal, a collective thought process to put ourselves in a good position come May 7,” Foster said. “We have some great teams and coaches in our conference, and I expect it to be a tight race.

“I don’t know how things will turn out, but I know our guys are hungry.”

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