Senior Nowak finds offensive groove

Brett Johnson, Herald Reporter

The bases are loaded with two outs. The Roger Williams University baseball team is tied 1-1 in the top of the third inning with UMass Boston who were ranked fourth in the nation at the time. Senior third baseman Shane Nowak is at the plate. He looks to keep the rally going, but grounds out to second base.

Nowak would get another opportunity in the top of the fifth, in the same exact situation. Bases were loaded with two outs. He didn’t ground out to second this time. Nowak got ahead in the count with one ball, no strikes and was simply looking for a pitch to drive.

“I was trying to make up for the previous at-bat,” Nowak said.

He found one and put a charge into it. Nowak sent the ball flying over the left field fence for a grand slam, and his first home run of the season.

“I had no idea [it was going out], that’s why I was still sprinting around the bases,” Nowak said.

Led by Nowak’s shot and sophomore Justin Garcia’s lights-out pitching performance, the Hawks pulled off one of the most surprising upsets of the season by defeating the Beacons 5-1 on their home field.

The 22-year-old marine biology major from Litchfield, New Hampshire attended Bishop Guertin, a Catholic preparatory high school in Nashua, New Hampshire. Nowak found that the first half of his high school baseball days got off to a pretty slow start but began finding his groove during his junior and senior years.

Nowak was recruited to come to Roger Williams University as a catcher, but knew it would be difficult to get playing time behind the plate since he was competing with then senior captain, Chris Travers. He was shuffled around the infield his freshman year and appeared in 20 games and got 14 starts.

With the arrival of freshman Chris Bosco during Nowak’s sophomore year, Nowak had competition once again for the position. He and Bosco split some time at the position but, in the end, Bosco became an everyday player behind the dish.

Although still listed as a catcher on the roster for his junior year, Nowak played just about everywhere in the field but that position. He mainly played in the infield, but dabbled a little in right field. By the end of the season, it was clear Nowak had a newfound home at the hot corner.

“I liked it a lot, I always played some infield,” Nowak said. “I always liked playing infield.”

Offensively, he’s having his most successful season so far. For the past three years, he has finished the season with around a mid-.200 batting average, but it seems this year everything is clicking. As of April 8, Nowak is hitting .281, which is second on the team in batting average.

“He’s really hitting his stride offensively this year, coming up in some big spots for us. With how hard he’s worked, we couldn’t be happier for him,” said Head Coach Jason Tower.


 His approach at the plate has stayed the same all four years — hit fastballs, try to be aggressive, find a way on base, and move runners along.

He’s noticed that this year’s results are little different. “I feel like I’ve been a little bit more consistent and confident at the plate,” he said. “Sticking with the approach of just hitting fastballs helps and not chasing.”

“Knowing that you’re going to be playing more consistently helps your confidence overall,” he added.

Nowak was named one of the three captains, alongside Bosco and senior pitcher Jimmy Smith. Although probably the most soft-spoken leader, he leads by example.

“Shane is a tough, hard-nosed player who has led by example through his work ethic,” Coach Tower said. “He’s the last one to leave the field every day, and goes about everything the right way. He had the big grand slam against UMass Boston and was still the last one in the dugout cleaning up trash after the game — that just shows you what type of guy Shane is.”

“He doesn’t say too much, but when he does, it is exactly what needs to be said,” said freshman infielder Dean DePreta.