Coming off an impressive year where they made the Centennial Conference playoffs, two Muhlenberg pitchers were named Preseason All-Americans in Division III.
RJ Hennessey ‘19 and Matthew D’Ambrosia ‘20 were recognized by “The Podcast About D3 Baseball” for their performances on the mound last year. Hennessey was picked for the second-team while D’ambrosia was an honorable mention. Muhlenberg had a quality 2018 season, falling to Centennial Conference foes in Franklin & Marshall and Johns Hopkins in the postseason.
Hennessey finished the season with a 5-4 record and a miniscule 2.67 ERA, while tossing 4 complete games, good enough to tie for the most in the Centennial Conference.
D’Ambrosia was just as successful, posting a 5-3 record with a team leading 75 strikeouts, finishing second in the conference. His most memorable win of the year came against Centennial Conference rival Dickinson. D’ambrosia put up Scherzer-like numbers, throwing a complete game shutout, giving up just 3 hits and striking out 15 batters. D’Ambrosia finished the season one strikeout shy of breaking the single season record for a Mules pitcher.
The senior righty is certainly happy with the award, but knows there is more to accomplish to consider this season a success. “The preseason awards just come from the season we both had last year. We worked hardnfor the results we got,” said Hennessey. “In a way it puts more of a target on our backs as teams will want to beat us even more.”
Muhlenberg’s pitching was easily their best weapon last season in which the team went 11-7 in conference play. They finished third in the standing at season’s end, behind only Hopkins and Swarthmore.
“It feels great to be a part of a pitching staff that has had so much success recently. It’s a great feeling to be able to work everyday with everyone of the guys on our staff,” said D’Ambrosia. “It’s a great atmosphere everyday that really pushes me to get better.”
Ever since the hiring of Head Coach Tod Gross in 2012, the pitching staff has excelled. In his first season, the Mules had their lowest team ERA in 10 years, and last year they set a program record with 288 strikeouts. D’Ambrosia and Hennessey accounted for more than half of those punch outs with a combined 146. Gross had high praise for his pitchers’ performances last year, “RJ and Matt have worked extremely hard over the years and last season they both had really good years on the mound, helping lead our pitching staff to breaking the school record for strikeouts for the second consecutive year.”
Coach Gross also emphasized the roles these two pitchers had on the successful staff as a whole, including their impact on underclassman: “RJ and Matt will once again be looked at as a big part of our pitching staff. They both lead by example which helps our younger pitchers each day.”
If the Mules’ pitching continues to improve as it has been, they will be a force in the Centennial Conference.
Yeah, being recognized is cool and all, but that doesn’t help either of us win ball games.
Also returning for the Mules staff are sophomores Truman Devitt ‘21 and Paul Poppert ‘21 who both had a strong first-year seasons as well. Devitt threw for 42 innings while posting a respectable 3.43 ERA and Poppert added 29 strikeouts in just over 27 innings. Both had successful outings down the stretch against Centennial Conference opponents as well.
D’Ambrosia also described a solid bond between the Muhlenberg pitchers that – he thinks – helps them work towards their goals. “Everyday we push each other and compete with each other to beat the next guy out for innings. We are all working to be the best that we can be, and with that attitude and competitive atmosphere, we have gotten so much better as a staff.” D’Ambrosia continued, “While it is a competition between guys for innings, everyone is always helping each other to make sure we are all ready to dominate every time. We also have a ton of trust in each other to go out and pick each other up.”
With such a strong staff the pitchers will certainly give their offense chances to win many games. The squad will look to start the year out strong, as it opens the season on Feb. 23. They will travel to the West Virginia University campus to face Alfred State and Brockport.
The accolades D’Ambrosia and Hennessey received seem to have inspired the team as they head into the season with lofty expectations. Making the conference playoffs this year is expected, but these two pitchers are aware that preseason recognition doesn’t mean much if they don’t perform.
Hennessey put it best: “Yeah, being recognized is cool and all, but that doesn’t help either of us win ball games.”