St. Louis, Mo., Feb. 19, 2014 - The Washington University in St. Louis baseball team has its sights set on a return to the NCAA Tournament after finishing 25-15 overall and earning a share of the University Athletic Association (UAA) championship in 2013. The Bears are set to open their 2014 campaign with three games in Memphis, Tenn., Saturday-Sunday, Feb. 22-23.
Washington U. opens the season against Wartburg College at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, before taking on Rhodes College in a doubleheader beginning at 11 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 23. The Bears are scheduled to host the first of 23 home games at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26, against Fontbonne University.
Five all-UAA honorees return from last year's team to lead the Bears into 2014. Graduate student pitcher Stephen Bonser, junior first baseman Zack Kessinger and junior pitcher Dom Quaranta each earned first-team all-conference honors in 2013, while senior center fielder Kyle Billig and junior third baseman Chris Lowery were both second-team all-UAA selections.
Bonser and Quaranta highlight the Bears' pitching staff that returns four starters from 2013. Bonser won a career-best seven games, and enters his final season tied for ninth on WUSTL's career wins list with 19. He also led the UAA a year ago, allowing just seven walks in 11 starts. Quaranta had a breakout sophomore season, finishing with a 7-0 record in eight starts for the Bears. He tied for first in the UAA for wins and ranked fifth in ERA (2.56).
Sophomore Chris Sanderson (0-2, 3.18 ERA) and graduate student Matt Tracy (3-3, 4.24 ERA) also started on the mound in 2013. The Bears' top relief pitcher, junior Max Zhang, enters 2014 with a career record of 4-2, seven saves and a 2.16 ERA.
Kessinger and Lowery anchor the infield for the Bears. Kessinger, the Most Valuable Player of the 2013 UAA Tournament, led WUSTL with 11 doubles and 39 RBIs, while ranking second with a .372 batting average, 54 hits and two homeruns. Lowery led the UAA with a .396 batting average and eight sacrifice flies in 2013. He also ranked in the top-five in the conference in hits (57), triples (three), slugging percentage (.528), RBIs (34) and total bases (76). Washington U.'s infield also includes junior shortstop Andrew Goldstick, who has started 75 of 76 career games at the position.
Billig, a three-time all-UAA honoree, batted .311 while starting all 40 games at center field. WUSTL's career steals leader (89), Billig also ranks second in runs scored (149), seventh in triples (11) and ninth in hits (164). Sophomore right fielder Max Golembo is also back for the Bears after starting 34 of 36 games played in 2013.