Finishing Strong

ALBANY – A pair of local athletes have begun their 2014 season as senior co-captains of the University at Albany baseball team.

Fonda-Fultonville graduate Josh Nethaway and Mayfield graduate D.J. Hoagboon are both expected to be key contributors for the Great Danes this season.

Nethaway is looking to build on a 2013 campaign that saw him named to the America East All-Conference First Team.

Nethaway started 49 games for the Great Danes last year, 45 of which came in right field. He slugged a team-leading .451 and co-led Albany with a .310 batting average. He amassed 57 hits, scored 26 runs, and tallied 35 RBI on his way to recording 16 multi-hit and 10 multi-RBI games. He was twice named America East Player of the Week and had what was perhaps his best game of the season on April 21.

Nethaway registered four hits, the last of which was a walk-off double in the bottom of the 12th inning that gave the Great Danes a 10-9 victory over the Hartford Hawks.

So what does an all-star do when he’s seemingly done it all?

“On a personal level, I always try to be the best and I think Player of the Year has been what I’m really striving for,” Nethaway said. “That’s been my main goal this year.”

Nethaway said that he worked primarily on his opposite-way hitting and defense during the offseason.

Through seven games this season, Nethaway has played five of them at first base.

Nethaway is looking to combine his talent with what he says is probably the best team he’s been a part of since beginning his playing career at Albany.

“Winning the conference championship has always been one of my top personal goals,” Nethaway said. “I think this year’s team is probably the best team we’ve had to do that. As long as we put all of the assets of the game together I think we’re going to have a really solid team.”

While the Great Danes have stumbled out of the gate (1-6 overall), Nethaway is off to a hot start at the plate. He leads Albany with a .391 batting average, .500 on-base percentage, and nine hits.

Nethaway also has his sights set on his post-collegiate career.

“Playing professionally has been a huge goal of mine ever since I was a little kid,” said Nethaway. “I’d like to take that step after the season and hopefully go in the draft or get signed.”

Despite playing on the right side of the infield and outfield in college, Nethaway has talked to professional organizations that are scouting him as a catcher.

Nethaway led the Fonda-Fultonville Braves to the WAC championship as a freshman and a senior as a catcher and was named the team’s MVP for three straight seasons.

Hoagboon, an outfielder, is looking to bounce back from a down year in 2013.

After leading the team with a .318 batting average in 2012, Hoagboon saw his average dip to .219 last season. He recorded eight multi-hit games but saw his RBI total fall from 29 in 2012 to 17 in 2013. This past summer, Hoagboon played for the Fayetteville Swampdogs of the Coastal Plain League in North Carolina.

“This past summer helped me out a lot going down to North Carolina,” Hoagboon said. “I learned a lot from the coaches down there.”

Hoagboon said he worked on his approach at the plate during the offseason and concentrated on identifying pitching tendencies and what to expect at different times during the count.

Like Nethaway, Hoagboon said this year’s Albany team is the best he’s been a part of.

“There’s no question about it,” said Hoagboon. “I’ve never seen the depth of our pitching staff like this. We’ve got a couple of seniors that have been through a lot and both offensively and defensively we’re solid.”

Hoagboon hasn’t drawn any major league interest to this point, but he is hopeful that a solid all-around campaign from the Great Danes this season will garner the recognition needed to attract attention to specific players who want to move on to the next level. He said he would like to be one of those players, but putting together a post-season run and getting a conference championship ring is the most important thing for the time being.

“I’m looking forward to playing hard, playing my best baseball and opening some eyes, but I have an obligation as a captain to motivate my team as well,” Hoagboon said.

Nethaway, Hoagboon and the Great Danes will look to turn their luck around when they begin a two-game set against the UMBC Retrievers in Baltimore on Saturday.