Mike Kaffee

Hurricanes Baseball Reporter
[email protected]

The road to Omaha officially kicked off with the first pitch of the 2024 Preseason by Gage Ziehl at 421PM. For the next 3 weeks, the boys of spring will be perfecting their skills and preparing for opening day 16 Feb against NJIT. The starting pitching rotation is still very much in question as to who the Friday night starter will be and who will be replacing Andrew Walters as this year’s closure. From what I have seen Rafe Schlesinger is our best bet to open and speaking with Brian Walters, Andrew’s brother, he will be ready to go after a year off recovering from Tommy John’s surgery. Without throwing one pitch in close to a year, it might be a while before we see him as our closure but who will it be in the meantime is anyone’s guess. As for Saturday and Sunday’s starters, none of last year’s candidates have been overly impressive. Herick Hernandez who made his first appearance last week in an “unofficial” scrimmage looked really good but as stated we had only one inning to evaluate from. Drew Dwyer and Nick Robert a freshman, are two I am looking closely at from how they pitched during the fall preseason. Then again JD might want to attempt to once again go with Ben Chestnutt, which would be a mistake from all I have seen of him. Can almost guarantee that JD will start Gage Ziehl, who has been struggling all of preseason for one of the two days over the weekend. He might even go with Chris Scinta as a last resort. There was talk of a new freshman transfer, Alex Stanyek, making some noise, but from talking to other pitchers today and one of the coaches, he won’t be eligible until 2025.

He was ranked #10 overall player in NJ and #83 OF in the country per Perfect Game. He has been assigned a number,#35, and saw action on the field today coming to pitch for one inning in the 4th. Nothing is 100% definite until it is. JD might have an argument with the NCAA to make him eligible but this just might be a long shot. Not to get one’s hope high on the negative side, his first appearance was not all worthy of being one of the best from NJ. Lack of control was shown today but more about this later. It was Day One and overall the pitching looked good and the hitting struggled until the 4th where hits were a scarcity.

We played 4 1/2 innings today with Gage Zielh and Rafe Schlesinger taking to the mound for the first three innings. The scouts had their guns out and their cameras cranking to what apparently be who will we be counting on this season to take us through Friday and Saturday. We are going to need 5 solid pitchers to carry us through which is where our problem lies. Both Rafe and Gage had very good performances not allowing a run. Both had 3up/3down first innings. Gage initially walked Lucas Costello but redeemed himself by picking him off at first. Rafe had a similar 3up/3down performance for his second inning. Gage, not so, giving up a walk and single and with runners on the corners, two out, got Jake Kuliklowsi to fly out to right. By the third inning, a bit more action on the batter’s part, but not enough to score a run. Gage opened the inning giving up a double to Carlos Perez. Carlos was caught flat-footed not realizing that JD Ursa,SS, made a jumping catch of Renzo Gonzalez’s hard-hit ball and easily got doubled off at second. Carlos had his sights on scoring and not paying attention to the actual play. Rafe also was broken through with a lead-off single by Jack Scanlon. Dorian Gonzalez with the defensive play of the day saved a run by cutting off a liner down the third base line hit by Daniel Cuvet, deflected off of Dorian’s chest, and was able to recover to throw Daniel out at first to end the inning. Overall Rafe and Gage had decent starting performances and possibly endorse a starting performance come season time. Still have a couple of weeks to build on today’s outing. For Rafe, it is academic but Gage has yet to make up for a shaky fall preseason.

Fourth Inning was our first look at the freshman, Alex Stanyek, from NJ. The first person he faced was Jason Torres who he walked having issues finding the plate. His fastball wasn’t all that fast and his curveball was sub-sonic. I mark it up as a case of nerves being his first appearance playing D1 baseball. He settled down striking out the next two batters and caught Jason attempting to steal second on a strike-um out, throw-um out DP. As stated probably only see him during preseason but as of yet not set in concrete. There is a lot of optimism from his fellow pitchers on what he can bring to the team. We just might have to wait until 2025 to find out.

Throwing opposite to Alex was Chris Scinta who was utilized last year as a middle reliever. The hitters who had been taking a back seat to the pitchers all day, finally took out their frustrations on Chris. Dorian opened the bottom half of the 4th with a liner down the first base line for a double. You could see him biting at the bits to stretch this into a triple but got the stop sign from the 3rd base coach. Other than Lorenzo Carrier, Dorian has been one of our hottest hitters this preseason.  After having Antonio Jimenez ground out 5-3, hits Carlos Perez who proceeds to steal second. The throw from Jack Scanlon sails into center scoring Dorian and placing Carlos on third. This is a problem of both our catchers not being consistent with their throws to second. During preseason too many of their throws went by way of CF causing unneeded advancement to 3rd and eventually scoring. With Carlos on third, Edgardo Villegas tags a second double of the inning for the second run. Not a noteworthy performance.

Winding out the day on the mound was Slaide Naturman. He has been hot and cold preseason and today he was cold. Opened walking Lorenzo Carrier and Jack Scanlon. Eric Fernandez executed a perfect laid-down bunt advancing both batters. During batting practice, there has been an emphasis on bunting which is what the team was unable to perform last year. Hopefully, we will see more of this season. Gaby Gutierrez brings one run home with a SF to right, followed by an RBI double by Daniel Cuvet. Like Chris, not a noteworthy performance.

Today was a day for the pitchers giving up only 6 hits, 4 of which were for doubles. No one with multiple hits. The doubles today were from Edgardo Villegas, Dorian Gonzalez, Daniel Cuvet, and Carlos Perez (who turned what should have been a  single into a double). 

I am more concerned about our pitching rather than our hitting. The BP is not deep and with questionable starters, the question becomes can our hitters keep pace with the runs we are going to give up? In the next three weeks, we will have time to work on this. Our first real test will come against Florida on the 1st of March. That will show if we have a realistic run for Omaha or another year of floundering in the end

Tomorrow, we scrimmage at night with the first pitch at 710PM.  


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