Led by junior Tom Crooks, Delaware Valley aims to improve in 2020

Delaware Valley baseball preview
Tom Crooks pieced together an outstanding campaign last season as a bright spot for a Delaware Valley program that endured some bumps in the Middle Atlantic Conference. This year, the spotlight will again be on the junior outfielder as the Aggies continue to rebuild under second-year skipper John Love.

Crooks hit .420 last season and posted a 1.060 OPS. He also hit a pair of homers and drove in 22 runs while leading the program with 68 total bases. He also stole 16 bases and was caught just twice. His efforts earned him Second Team All-MAC Freedom honors.

"He's one of those guys that can just pick up a bat and hit .420, quite honestly," Love said. "He's just so talented and has a great feel for his swing. He knows his body so well. I think teams will be on him a bit more this year, but I think he'll do well with the average, steal his 20 to 25 bases, and continue to produce."

The Aggies finished 13-25 last season with a 7-14 mark in conference play. The offense sputtered to the tune of a .381 on-base percentage, but the bigger problems stemmed from a .916 fielding percentage (104 errors) and a team ERA of 9.32 - the 375th highest mark in all of D-III (386 teams).

"It comes down to a lack of experience," Love said. "When I came here we returned only one guy, plus depth was a major concern last year. In fact, our two guys with the most innings pitched were position players (Cody Brown & Hunter Mease) who never pitched before.

"Experience will be a concern again, but we have plenty more talent with 20 new guys this year, 18 of them being freshmen."

One of those new faces is freshman Hank Bielen, a Connecticut native that'll likely open the season as the Aggies starting first baseman.

"He had an unbelievable fall and he's a guy that could eventually be All-Conference, or close to that level, pretty early on in his career," Love said.

As for upperclassmen beyond Crooks, expect senior catcher Ryan Schuetrumpf and junior outfielder Timmy Lallis to carry the Aggies at the plate.

Schuetrumpf, out of Berks Catholic, hit .314 last season while posting a .512 slugging percentage, second-best on the club behind Crooks. Lallis, a Gladstone, New Jersey native, hit .367 while stealing 10 bases. He also struck out just eight times in a team-high 128 at-bats.

The Aggies open the 2020 season with a trip through the Florida Coast and open on Saturday, March 7, with a doubleheader against Houghton College. The home portion of the schedule opens on Monday, March 16, as the club plays host to Eastern University in a conference match-up.

"Just excited to get on the field now," Love said. "It won't be long now."
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Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

BY PATRICK GORDON
Managing Editor
pgordon@philadelphiabaseballreview.com

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