Thomas Bost will lead the way for Valley Forge
Thomas Bost will lead the Patriots at the plate. | Photo: UVF Athletics
If you're looking for a local underdog to root for during the college baseball season, look no further than the University of Valley Forge. 

The Patriots enter the 2022 season with just one senior in catcher Chandler Beard and a graduate student transfer in Reginald Washington Jr. The rest of the roster is full of first-year students and a few sophomores and juniors with little college experience because of the pandemic. 

"Between a lot of freshmen and a lot of transfers, it's like everyone is still new to the program," said head coach Joe Clancy. "Even the guys that were here last year, they only were able to play 15 games, so they couldn't really get settled." 

Clancy hasn't settled in yet himself. This upcoming season will be just his second at the helm at Valley Forge. He joined the program in May of 2020 following a three-year stint as an assistant coach at Eastern. 

"It's a process for all us, considering what the pandemic did to this program and college baseball across the region," Clancy said. "It's an ongoing process, and these guys know that." 

It's no secret that the Patriots have struggled as a program. The club sputtered to a 2-13 record last season, meaning the best season in recent memory for the program remains their 8-23 mark in 2017. 

Gone is Jeffery Espinal, arguably the most versatile guy on last year's roster. He led the club with 12 RBI's while hitting .275, plus he was a workhorse on the mound accounting for more than a quarter of the innings pitched by the entire staff. 

"He was the university workhorse for a long time," Clancy said with a laugh. 

The best hitter with the program right now is junior Thomas Bost. The shortstop hit .400 last season and led the club with 33 total bases. He's tasked not just with leading the club at the plate but also with mentoring a large crop of inexperienced players on the Valley Forge roster. 

"He is our lead by example guy," Clancy said. "He has done a great job himself of developing and getting used to playing in a more robust college setting. He's done a good job hitting the weight room, and it'll be interesting to see how he builds on what he accomplished last year." 

Another player to keep an eye on is Christian Santos. The junior was a standout at Frankford High School in Philadelphia and is one of only a few Public League guys playing college baseball in the region. He's also the type of player coaches fawn over, meshing skill on the diamond with the ability to help others while leading by example. 

"He's going to be competing for some time at first base, for sure," Clancy said. "He didn't play last year, so this will be essentially his first year for us with the club." 

Pitching has been a real issue for the Patriots. The club posted a 15.75 team ERA last season to go along with a 2.86 WHIP. Clancy understands those figures must drastically improve for the Patriots to be successful. 

"We added a bit more depth there, and I think that's going to help us tremendously," Clancy said. "I think we're going to take a lot of steps forward there, not just by having more arms, but having more talent there." 

Valley Forge opens the regular season on Feb. 26 with a doubleheader against Lesley University at Diamond Nation in Flemington, N.J. The club will open the home portion of its schedule on March 3 with a visit from Williamson. 

"Looking around our conference, I think we are going to be a lot more competitive this year," Clancy said. "That's a good thing."

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