Scots receive considerable attention in preseason baseball polls
The success that McHenry County College's (MCC) baseball team celebrated last year has not stopped with the turn of the calendar so far.
The Scots program, coming off a 50-win season and World Series berth, was No. 10 in the preseason National Junior College Athletic Association Division II rankings released Jan. 23, according to njcaa.org.
“I think it's great for the program,” MCC Head Coach Jared Wacker told the McHenry Times. “Obviously, the guys have worked hard and the players who have been through the program have worked hard to establish the success of the program, and I think that's something we definitely appreciate. But I think our players understand that this team is not last year's team. It's a completely different team.”
Some of the stars from last year's squad are back this year for another shot at advancing the program.
Sophomore first baseman Brett Stratinsky had a .354 batting average and clubbed 11 home runs with 50 RBIs, according to njcaa.org. He also had a .428 on-base percentage and .634 slugging percentage. Wacker said Stratinsky will move on to NCAA Division I Middle Tennessee State next season.
Also back is sophomore shortstop Nick Vasic, who hit .394 and had 31 stolen bases, which ranked No. 24 in NJCAA Division II. He is headed to Southern Illinois, Wacker said.
The Scots will have to replace their top four starting pitchers from last season. However, some of last year's freshmen in that department have shown improvement, according to Wacker.
“The thing that's been exciting for me is we've had several sophomores that have really improved their game from last year, that (have) seen a velocity increase from last year,” he said. “It's really good to see those sophomores step up, because when you have experience on the mound, it really benefits the team.”
Ben Cusac, whom Wacker said started non-conference games last season, had a 3-1 record with 20 strikeouts in 30 ⅓ innings. Alex Marro also had a 3-1 record and tallied 22 strikeouts in 21 innings. Wacker said Marro has “kind of really taken a big step forward” from last season, as Marro's fastball is up to 88 mph from the low-80s last year.
Also returning to the hill for the Scots is Peyton Schneider, who tallied 27 strikeouts in 35 innings and has looked sharp this spring, Wacker said.
Some key newcomers include a pair of transfers. Catcher Wyatt Mascarella hit .248 with a .377 on-base percentage in 38 starts at Illinois-Chicago last season, according to the UIC website, and made the Horizon League's All-Freshmen Team. Mascarella's fellow Cary-Grove alum, Larkin Hanselmann, is a left-handed pitcher who has joined the Scots after being out of baseball while attending Iowa.
Outfielder Matt Nagel and second baseman Gavin Homer are two other newcomers Wacker cited.
“I'm hoping that it's another high-energy team,” he said. “Practices have had a lot of energy and (a) lot of positivity.”
The Scots open the 2017 season against Surry Community College on March 11 in Dobson, North Carolina, according to the team's online schedule.
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