Last season, a veteran William and Mary squad underachieved to the frustration of players, coaches and fans. While this year’s team will be much younger, Head Coach Frank Leoni feels it is not the Tribe’s youth which has made the preseason so invigorating.
“I’ve had some young teams I haven’t cared for; I’ve had some old teams I haven’t cared for. I’ve had some old teams that I’ve really loved and some young teams I’ve really enjoyed,” Leoni said. “I am thoroughly enjoying this team and I told them last week in practice that I look forward to working with this team every day.”
The Tribe will take the field this season with nine upperclassmen on the roster, only two of whom are slated to start on the preseason depth chart. The pitching staff, with the exception of junior ace Logan Billbrough, will likely consist mostly of freshmen and sophomores.
“We’re going to be much improved defensively and much improved on the mound,” Leoni said. “This may be a no brainer comment, but as the weeks go by, we’re going to progress very nicely. We’re going to get better and better every week.”
The young talent will need to produce early for Leoni and his staff, as the Tribe opens with one of the harder schedules in the country. After an opening weekend series versus the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, the Tribe heads down to third-ranked LSU the following weekend for a three-game series against last season’s College World Series champion.
William and Mary will also face 20th-ranked North Carolina in Chapel Hill and will play a home-and-home series against second-ranked Virginia within the first four weeks of the season.
“They definitely are games to look forward to,” sophomore pitcher Matt Davenport said. “Going to those places and showing what we can do and the type of talent we have, it will give us a chance, especially if we win some games, to get our name out there more.”
With a tough early-season schedule, the Tribe will have to mature quickly, but Leoni believes his team has the talent to do so.
“I’m not going to say ‘I expect us to shell North Carolina or go out there and spank Maryland.’ We’re just going to go out and play those games like any other game,” Leoni said. “And I expect every time we take the field, my team is going to be successful.”
Key contributor: Logan Billbrough
Scary as it may sound to opposing CAA hitters, William and Mary might not yet have seen the real Logan Billbrough.
After an injury-marred freshman season and coming out of the bullpen season last year, Billbrough is poised to emerge as the ace of a young Tribe pitching staff.
“I did enjoy coming out of the bullpen last year, but I think it’s a new challenge and that I can really help the team out in this new role,” Billbrough said.
As a reliever in 2009, Billbrough led the Tribe with a 4.20 ERA while striking out 44 in 40.2 innings. Billbrough believes his time in the Cape Cod League this summer helped him mature even more from the pitcher he was last season.
“I feel like whenever you play with the best you get better and have to rise to the occasion,” Billbrough said. “We all shared tips and took something from each other and we all became better baseball players because of it.”