Best they’ve ever looked

The Hawks shocked the Commonwealth Coast Conference in 2018 and they’re looking to do it again this year. Now that they have postseason experience under their belt, they’re confident that they can make it past the opening weekend of the tournament in 2019.

Prior to the 2018 season, they were predicted to finish sixth in the CCC, but their 11-5 record in conference matchups earned them the second seed heading into the tournament. However, their lack of playoff experience proved costly for the young Hawks, and they dropped their first two tournament games.  

“It’s hard to really point a finger at any one thing that happened,” said Head Coach Jason Tower, who was named the 2018 CCC Co-Coach of the Year. “I think it was sort of a perfect storm of some mistakes snowballing and running into two really good teams.” 

The CCC coaches chose RWU to finish fourth this year in the preseason poll behind 2018 champions Western New England University, Salve Regina University and Endicott College, but senior captains Chris Bosco and Anthony Dominguez think they put the Hawks a little low on the list.

“They got that wrong,” second baseman Dominguez said. “We made a statement last year and even though we went two-and-out last year, we’re ready to go this year. We learned a lot from being in the spot that we were in… Lots of good things to come this year.”

“[The team] is the best it’s ever looked since we’ve been here,” said catcher Bosco, a 2018 All-CCC Second Team selection.

Although the Hawks lost four seniors, including their number-one pitcher Sam Bennett and third baseman Shane Nowak, they’re encouraged that plenty of returners will be able to step up into those vacant roles. 

Coach Tower is predicting that junior left-handed pitcher Justin Garcia will fill the ace role. He posted a 3.25 ERA in eight starts last year and was named to the All-CCC Third Team. The Hawks’ bullpen is deep this year, which will come in handy with the new CCC rule change of nine-inning doubleheaders instead of only seven.

“The importance of a bullpen is huge,” Coach Tower said.

Some of the relievers he’ll be calling on are All-CCC Third Team selection sophomore Matt Vernacatola, senior Ryan Havunen, sophomore Chris Flynn, sophomore Ethan Klein and junior Craig Demers. The rest of the spots are up for grabs, he said. 

The new rule change will help the Hawks’ offense, too, according to Dominguez. 

“It also gives us more time to score more runs. In the past few years, we’ve always waited until the past few innings to score some runs,” he said.

This squad is welcoming 12 newcomers — 11 freshmen and one senior transfer.

 A few freshmen, namely Tommy Hobin, Kyle Schaefer and Anthony Sapienza, have caught the eyes of Bosco and Dominguez. 

Senior Eric Damphousse transferred from Skidmore College last academic year, took a baseball season off due to injury and tried out for the team this past fall. The captains have noticed that the outfielder, who is friends with graduate Nowak, is a perfect fit.

The Hawks’ focus this season is on the fundamentals, and limiting mistakes which will lead to consistent success. But the end result is clear.

“I want a ring,” Bosco said. “We’re right on pace for it.”

 The Hawks open up their season on the road and return to Bristol after their spring break trip to face UMass-Dartmouth. They play their first CCC doubleheader against Curry College on March 23.