By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Last season was a special one for the St. Joseph's College baseball team, as it won an amazing 29 games and picked up a first-round win during the U.S. Collegiate Athletic Association Small College World Series. This season hasn’t gone quite as well, but the Bears expect to turn it around in the second half to get back to that big stage.
“We won 29 games last year, but going into the season that was a pipe dream, and everything had to fall perfectly into place for that to happen,” St. Joseph’s head coach Jerry Sidman said. “It was a lot of luck. This year, we’ve had to fight for every win. Luck hasn’t been on our side.”
After they dropped a pair of games to the College of Staten Island on Sunday, the Bears are now 11-14 on the season. It's not a pretty mark, but there are still 15 games to go, and the team expects to heat up along with the weather. Twenty wins is still within reach.
St. Joseph’s players and coaches are confident about reaching 20 wins, even with a losing record, because they feel that this is a better team than the one a year ago. While some of the difference can be attributed to luck, it is also, in part, the result of a tougher schedule.
“It's the second half of the year now, and we're just trying to find some consistency,” Sidman said. “It was tough in the first half because the weather has hurt us. Just last week we had three games rained out on us, and that can be really disruptive to the flow. Now that the weather is nicer, we expect to get on a bit of a roll.”
With St. Joseph's powerful offense, it's hard to envision the team falling short of 20 wins. Thomas McKenna is crushing the ball this year with a .388 average and eight extra-base hits in 24 games. Chris Cutrone is right behind him with a .351 average and eight extra-base hits of his own. Then there are three other starters hitting over .300 — Nicholas Loprinzi, Michael Camerada and Francis Rapp.
“Our offense is really good; we've just gotten unlucky and haven't been able to put it together,” McKenna said. “Guys are putting up good numbers, but we've just missed a big hit here or there. It'll come. What I like about this team is that we're a bunch of fighters.”
Pitching is going to be the key. Junior Brian Luebcke and sophomore Mitch Brigando have put up good numbers, but the Bears need strong finishes from senior Cutrone and junior Rosario DiLorenzo, who have a combined 1-8 record, in order to be successful.
“We have a good team, a good defense behind us, so I think we just need to relax, throw strikes and just take it a game at a time,” said Luebcke. “Twenty wins has been our goal all along and I have faith that we'll get our 20. I have faith in my team. We all just need to go out and play our roles."
St. Joseph's has 15 games left to play. Now that the weather has finally improved, it feels like consistency will lead to some big winning streaks, which the team will need to reach its goal of getting back to the Small College World Series tournament.