Led by preseason CAA Player of the Year, W&M opens baseball season

Lafayette product Matt Keane figures into W&M baseball plans at catcher, is competing with a fellow freshman

Last season wasn’t as successful for William and Mary baseball as its two prior campaigns that included an NCAA Tournament bid in 2014 and a Colonial Athletic Association regular-season title in 2015. Whether or not that can be chalked up to injuries or inexperience, fourth-year coach Brian Murphy liked what he saw down the stretch and the Tribe entered the fall with some momentum.

“We had a chance to get in the (NCAA) Tournament,” Murphy said, “and we were playing our best baseball at the end with a chance to continue on.”

Anchoring William and Mary’s hopes for a deeper postseason run in 2016 is senior first baseman/catcher Charley Gould, the CAA Preseason Player of the Year and a Louisville Slugger Preseason Third Team All-American.

Tribe junior pitcher Nick Brown also earned preseason CAA honors after the right-hander landed all-league second team distinction last year.

The nonconference slate features a trip to California with games scheduled against consensus top-10 preseason pick Oregon State as well as San Diego, Cal State Northridge and Connecticut. The Tribe also visits Virginia in March and Virginia Tech in April and the home ledger includes games with Richmond, VCU and Old Dominion.

William and Mary opened the campaign Friday  with a 7-3 defeat at Charlotte, the first of a three-game series with the Conference USA side.

The Tribe then travels to Liberty on Tuesday before the Plumeri Park opener Wednesday against George Mason.

INFIELD: Junior Tim Hoehn has moved over to third base to replace Willie Shaw after two seasons at shortstop.

That opened a spot for redshirt freshman Kyle Wrighte, who is joined in the middle infield at second by sophomore Cullen Large.

Gould (.388, 13 home runs, 52 RBI), likely hitting third in the lineup, played almost exclusively first base last year but will return to his former catcher position more often this season.

“He’s a pretty complete player for this level,” Murphy said. “He’s not your slugger who is going to strike out all that much, but he also certainly has the power to do damage with home runs and doubles.”

“I’d be lying to you if I said it wasn’t a cool thing to hear,” Gould said of the preseason CAA honors. “This might sound cliché but I do understand that it’s a preseason thing, so it doesn’t really mean much. I guess it kind of gives me more incentive to live up to expectations even more so than I felt before.”

OUTFIELD: Senior Josh Smith, batting No. 2 in the lineup, will play centerfield as the most veteran member of the projected group that includes sophomore Ryan Hall and junior college transfer Charles Ameer.

CATCHER: Freshman Matt Keane, who helped lead Lafayette to a state title last year, is in the mix for playing time and will compete with fellow freshman Hunter Smith.

They're following Ryan Hissey, who was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays last year and advanced to short-season A ball before the summer was done.

“I think they can both be really good," Gould said of the freshmen.

The inexperience behind the dish means Gould will be looked upon to fill in some games.

PITCHER: Brown (3.38 ERA, 90.2 IP, 64 K's) leads the weekend rotation followed by right-handed Mitchell Aker and junior right-hander Daniel Powers.

Senior right-hander reliever Joseph Gaouette battled injury most of last year, but returned healthy for fall play.

“As far as developments go for us, that could be the biggest one for us,” Murphy said.

ROOKIE TO WATCH: Jason Waldman. The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder out of Fairfax is one of nine freshmen and is expected to hit fifth in the order.

CAA: William and Mary is picked to finish fifth and last season's tourney champion UNC Wilmington, to win the league followed in second by reigning regular-season champion College of Charleston.

Holtzman can be reached by phone at 757-298-5830.

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