Fairmont State University head baseball coach Phil Caruso and his coaching staff will return an experienced roster when the Falcons’ baseball team takes the field for the first time in the spring of 2021.
Caruso and the Falcons wrapped up a shortened 2020 regular season with a 7-9 overall record, as the season was canceled prior to conference play on March 13 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fairmont State went 3-1 during opening weekend action at the Peachtree City Baseball Classic, before dropping all four games in a series against UPJ in mid-February. The Falcons opened March with a 2-1 record at the MEC/PSAC Baseball Crossover, before taking a trip Cary, N.C. for a NCAA Division II mixer March 6-9. The Falcons wrapped up play in Cary with a 2-3 record.
During Fairmont State’s win over Kentucky State on Feb. 8, Caruso picked up his 100th career victory as the head coach of the Falcons with a 12-1 win over the Thorobreds. Excluding the 2020 season, Caruso and the Falcons have averaged 24.5 wins per season during his first four years leading the program.
Caruso, who enters his sixth season at the helm of the program in 2021, will have 15 seniors return to play. Six of Fairmont State’s nine seniors from the 2020 season will take advantage of the NCAA’s blanket waiver for spring sports athletes that had their seasons shortened by the pandemic cancelation, including Chris Green, Alex Banko, Will Brown, Zach Musgrove, Roberto Velasquez and E.J. Trickett.
A trio of seniors saw their careers come to an end last spring, including outfielder Anthony Gavin, pitcher Caleb Lutjens, and pitcher J.T. Stegmaier.
“It has been an honored to have these three senior standouts as a part of the Falcon baseball team,” said Caruso. “I feel terrible that they lost a majority of their final season due to COVID-19, as they all worked hard and deserved a special senior year. However, life threw them a huge curveball, and now it’s time to move on to the next phase of their lives. The entire Fairmont State baseball staff wishes them nothing but the best in health and success in life.”
Gavin, from Charleston, W.Va., played two seasons for the Falcons after transferring to Fairmont State from Potomac State prior to the 2018-19 athletic season. Gavin played in 21 games and made five starts over the past two seasons. In limited at-bats, Gavin totaled three hits, five runs scored, an RBI and a career on-base percentage of .265. He also recorded 10 putouts and five assists on defense for the Falcons. Gavin graduated with a degree in exercise science after spring 2020 semester.
Lutjens, from Hickory, N.C., was a three-year member of the Fairmont State pitching staff and wrapped up his career in the spring of 2020. Lutjens finished his career with a 5.40 ERA and a 2-3 career pitching record, doing a bulk of his work out of the bullpen. In 23 total appearances and 51.2 total innings pitched, he totaled 53 strikeouts and allowed just 31 earned runs during his career. Lutjens made eight total starts during his career, with seven coming during his freshman season in 2018. He had 41 of his 53 strikeouts during his freshman season in 2018. Lutjens will graduate with a degree in information systems this fall.
Stegmaier, from Morgantown, played two seasons for the Falcons as a member of the pitching staff in 2019 and 2020. Prior to his Fairmont State career, Stegmaier was a two-year standout at Allegany College in Maryland. During the 2020 season, Stegmaier was off to a tremendous start with a 1.93 ERA with just three runs allowed and 14 strikeouts during his eight total appearances early in the season. Opposing batters hit just .188 against him during the 2020 season. For his career, Stegmaier was a one-time MEC Pitcher of the Week on Feb. 11, 2019 and totaled a 5-3 career record with 30 career strikeouts. Stegmaier will graduate with a degree in business administration this fall.
By The Numbers
Despite the early end to the 2020 season, the Fairmont State baseball team was among the league leaders in a number of different categories a season ago. The Falcons led the MEC in doubles plays (10) and were second in the conference in sacrifice flies (8). Fairmont State finished third in the conference in hits (119), home runs (10), and on-base percentage (.364).
Individually, Fairmont State’s Zach Musgrove ranked first in the league and 34th in the country in home runs per game during the 2020 campaign. He was also first in the MEC in RBIs per game (1.13).
Musgrove hit a team-high five home runs in 16 games for the Falcons last season — pushing his career home run total to 17 during his first two seasons with the Falcons. Musgrove was named CoSIDA Academic All-District this spring after his big start to the 2020 season for the Falcons. The starting first baseman batted .283 with five home runs, two doubles and 18 runs batted-in this past spring.
He garnered CoSIDA Academic All-District honors with a 3.61 grade-point average as a Business Administration major at Fairmont State.
Musgrove was also a second team All-MEC standout following the 2019 season and has a career hitting percentage of .328 and a career slugging percentage of .611. In addition to having 17 career home runs in two seasons at Fairmont State, Musgrove also has 61 career runs batted-in and 14 career doubles.
Justin Brown also appears at the top of the MEC statistics in a number of categories, including being the most-walked player in the conference with 13 trips to first base via base on balls. Brown also ranked second in the league in stolen bases with seven.
Jacob Goodnight also ranked second in the MEC and 46th in the country in triples with two this past spring. Goodnight also ranked fourth in the league in batting average at .382 this season. But perhaps even more impressive, Goodnight started all 16 games at shortstop this spring and did not commit an error. He also notched a hit in 13 of 16 games during the season.
As for the Fairmont State pitching staff, Will Brown ranked in the top-five in the league in earned-run average with a 2.08 average during 2020, while Brown and teammate Logan Smith ranked third and four respectively in strikeouts per nine innings last season. They both averaged nearly 13 strikeouts per nine innings last season.
Logan Smith’s 31 strikeouts last spring were the second-most in the MEC behind Charleston’s Logan Campbell.
In the Classroom
Caruso’s team has a cumulative team grade-point average of 3.26 during the 2019-20 academic year, earning the Academic Excellence Award from the American Baseball Coaches Association for the fourth-consecutive year.
The baseball team had 13 players earn MEC academic honors during 2019-20, with seven being named to the MEC All-Academic Team and six being named to the Commissioner’s honor roll, based on fall semester GPAs.
In addition, during the spring semester the Fairmont State baseball team had a 3.36 team GPA, with 27 players having a 3.0 GPA or higher and four players with a perfect 4.0 GPA. The 27 student-athletes with a 3.0 GPA or higher was the second-highest total in the department.
A member of the Fairmont State baseball team also earned the Eston K. Feaster Award for the fifth-consecutive season, with Roberto Velasquez taking honors in 2020 with a 3.69 GPA as a Business Administration major at FSU. The Eston K. Feaster Award is presented annually to the senior athlete at Fairmont State with the highest cumulative grade-point average among letterwinners.
Nic Rush (2016), Jacob Whitmore (2017), Ted Sova (2018) and Mark McKee (2019) join Velasquez as recipients of the Feaster Award from the baseball program.
As mentioned earlier, Zach Musgrove also became the fourth Fairmont State baseball player under Caruso to earn CoSIDA Academic All-District honors, joining Austin Norman (2018), Alex Levitan (2016) and Nic Rush (2016). Levitan and Rush also moved on to earn Academic All-American honors.