There is a new coach at the Salem State baseball helm, but he is no stranger.
Salem native Mike Ward has taken over the reigns after serving as associate head coach under veteran Ken Perrone for the past two years. He knows the players and the system, and is enthusiastic about his team.
The Vikings are young but experienced in key areas, and Ward is very pleased with the work ethic he has seen as players compete for playing time. The schedule has been strengthened to the degree that the Vikings have one of the toughest Division 3 schedules in the country.
Salem State added two-time defending national champion Marietta and NCAA runnerup Wheaton College along with Wooster of Ohio and Neumann from Pennsylvania (both NCAA qualifiers). Tufts, Heidelberg (Ohio), St. Lawrence, Babson and Southern Maine are also strong opponents in addition to the Vikes’ MASCAC rivals.
The Vikings are coming off a very successful 31-12-1 2012 season in which they reached the league championship game.
“We felt we were ready to take the next step forward,” said Ward. “The guys are excited about the challenge and are ready to step up.”
Salem State wraps up the Florida portion of its schedule today with a doubleheader against Defiance (Ohio) College; it takes a 3-5 mark into today’s twinbill.
“Our strength comes from the experience we have back,” said Ward. “Even though (we have) a lot of juniors they’ve been starting for two or three years and understand the system. They’re battle tested.”
Starting pitchers such as Ryan Hyjek and Ed Deren return with experience and will be counted on to head up the pitching staff. Hyjek is a 6-foot-2 junior who had a 3.38 ERA last season; he was impressive in his first start by striking out 10 in a six-inning performance against Dominican. Deren, a southpaw from Westford, posted a 6-3 record and team-leading 3.04 ERA last year.