McMaster looks to continue their rebuild with head coach Adam Strongman returning for his fourth year at the helm for the 2017 season. Last season the Marauders finished with a 4-14 record, tied for ninth in the OUA.

That record though was not a barometer for the season as the team lost seven games by three or less runs. One more bounce in their favour and they could have had seven or eight wins, which would have placed them in the middle of the pack and in a playoff position.

Although this year McMaster won’t have to worry about the playoffs as there is a new format which will see all the teams make the postseason.

Strongman expects 22-23 players from the 2016 main and auxiliary rosters to be returning to this year’s squad. Not returning are five players that graduated that include infielders Aaron Giroux, Keith Woodcock, Cole Lewis and outfielders Jake Chiaravalle and Michael Westlake.

With those five players gone, Strongman will look to Ryan McAree, Philip Hache, Mike Campagnolo and Kenny Noguchi to be the leaders of the team. “I expect all of them to step up to be leaders. They each don’t need to be vocal leaders but more of a physical leader for the team.” Strongman went on to say, “Execution of skill can lead the team better than being just vocal. A few will be vocal leaders but we need to demonstrate what we preach.”

Noguchi says he looks to lead the team, especially the pitchers, and keep team morale up, “We’ve got a group of young guys on the rise and I personally believe that it is a crucial point in their career where they need to be extremely dedicated to being the best players they can be.” The veteran pitcher added that he looks forward to “creating a bond with the boys that goes beyond baseball.”

Campagnolo believes he will be able to lead the team by teaching the younger guys “how to act and manage playing on a varsity team. I try my best to instil good values in the guys and make sure they are accountable for everything on and off the field.”

Both players worked hard in the offseason to get them selves better for the upcoming season. Noguchi spent the summer playing for the East York Bulldogs. Their coaching staff helped him with the mental side of the game. The fourth-year student also worked with the Jays Care Foundation, coaching youth of all ages which helped him to develop new pitching styles and grips to help him this season.

For Campagnolo, the Guelph native, is just happy to come into this season healthy. He admits that the last few seasons he has been banged up coming into camp but after taking care of himself over the winter and having a successful surgery and completing rehab, he feels like he is at the best he can be for the fall season.

Outside of the four veteran players returning, the Marauders will fill the rest of the lineup mainly with second year players. With two starting outfielders graduating, McMaster will look to Willie Hotta to fill one of the holes. Hotta played a lot of innings last year so he knows what OUA baseball is like already.

While there will be new faces in the outfield, the infield will look virtually the same as last season, including starting shortstop and OUA Rookie of the Year Lucas DaSilva.

Coming off an award-winning season, DaSilva says he is staying to the same approach as he did last season, “I think it is important to stick to the approach at the plate that guided my success and helped the team last season.” While he had good season in the field, the Marauder shortstop believes he can be better. “It’s also essential to give the team an opportunity to succeed by being a dependable wall at shortstop, which is something that I need to improve on and will work towards achieving.”

Even though he is a second-year player, DaSilvia wants to be a leader by installing a team player mentality with the entire team, especially the freshmen joining the team.

When asked about his first season, DaSilve replied “My first year with the team was an incredible experience. Despite the huge time commitment, countless hours running drills, and precious time spent away from home, making it out the ballpark daily was something I cherished.” He added, “If it wasn’t for the contributions and support of the entire team, none of my achievements would have been possible.”

Strongman believes this year’s team is stronger after upgrading the roster with depth at pretty much every position, “We have a couple of new outfielders that will give us more depth but will give us more offensively.” With the new-found depth on the infield, it should create more of an internal competition which will push each player to be better. With the pitchers, the manager says, they “became stronger and have a greater understanding of what pitching is all about.”

“The largest thing is the knowledge gained from last season.” With a lot of first and second year players once again, the young Marauders will need to lean on that knowledge and experience from the second-year guys.

The coaching staff knows this team can compete with every team in the OUA. The goal Strongman has been preaching to his team throughout training camp is finishing top 6, “Our actions will dictate what occurs over these 16 games.”

McMaster will open the season on the road for their first three sets of double headers with the first against the Ryerson Rams on Saturday September 9th.

This year’s OUA schedule was originally an 18-game scheduled. However, recently York University’s team pulled out leaving a 16-game schedule, giving each team a bye during the season. The 2017 campaign will culminate the weekend of October 13 to 15 with a single elimination tournament at the Pan Am Fields in Ajax, Ontario.