Pitching is target for improvement

Cory Geer, Staff Writer

The Pitt-Johnstown  baseball team is to open their season Feb. 17 in Mooresville, North Carolina, against Fairmont State University, West Virginia.

Last season the Mountain Cats opened the season with a four-game sweep against Fairmont, something that redshirt-junior catcher Dylan Conrad would like to see again this year.

“It is always important to start out of the gate hot.

“I think it is important to open up the season by winning our first series,” Conrad said.

The Mountain Cats finished last season with an overall record of 18-30 and a conference record of 8-20, which was seventh out of eight conference teams.

Conrad said he would like to see an improvement with the conference record.

“The goal is to make the conference tournament that is played in Johnstown again this year,” Conrad said. “Once you get into the tournament anything can happen.”

A new season means fresh faces for the Mountain Cats.

New to the Pitt-Johnstown coaching staff this season is pitching coach Rick Roberts. Roberts previously coached for the Mountain Cats from 2006-10.

Roberts who grew up in Sidman, was drafted in the 10th round of the 1997 Major League Baseball draft as a pitcher by the Detroit Tigers. After playing two seasons with the Tigers, he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he made it to AAA before retiring.

Pitt-Johnstown senior pitcher Brad Coleman said that Roberts has helped the pitching staff.

“He is really helping us prepare for the long season. His knowledge of the game and how he passes it on to us can only help the staff improve,” Coleman said.

The Mountain Cats pitching staff finished last out of 16 teams with an 8.52 ERA.

“As a staff, we need to be better.

“We just need to be able to bear down and get that third out of the inning to help the offense,” Coleman said.

Last season, Pitt-Johnstown’s offense finished No. 3 in conference in batting average.

This season, Pitt-Johnstown will bring back three: Dan Clark, Dylan Kerstetter and Jack Shirk, of their top five hitters from last season.

“We need to come together as a team this year and play solid, fundamental baseball. I think it is something that we can accomplish this season,” Conrad said.