Baseball season preview

Brett Johnson, Herald Reporter

Soon enough, the birds will be chirping, the sun will be beaming, the bats will be cracking, and the gloves will be snapping. 

Baseball season is almost here. 

As the Roger Williams University baseball team begins to dust off their cleats and step on the dirt for the first time this year, they have goals and hopes in mind to improve upon their 12-27 record from last spring.

The Hawks, who finished second to last in the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) standings last year, feel that they have a chance to find their way into the CCC Tournament this year.

“Last year was a really interesting transition year,” said junior captain Chris Bosco. “We were better in ways than we were the year before even though our record was similar. I think we moved forward as a program and really set a good foundation for this year.”

With one of the largest rosters in program history, the team is excited to combine veteran experience with rookie eagerness. The Hawks are welcoming 21 freshmen to their squad in hopes that they can make an immediate impact.

“We had a really young team last year and some guys got some valuable experience that I think should carry into this year,” Head Coach Jason Tower said. “We have some really good young guys this year as well that should mix right in and compete for some time. [I’m] hoping the combination of those two things lead to a little bit better season.”

Despite their troubles as a team, two players earned All-CCC honors, both of whom are returning this season. Bosco started in every game last year behind the plate and racked up the second-highest batting average on the team (.324). He led the team in both total bases with 55 and in stolen bases with 11. Defensively, he threw out 29 runners trying to steal, which was the most of all Division III catchers. He was named to the All-CCC Second Team and to the New England Intercollegiate Baseball Association and American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings Division III All-Region Third Team.

Sophomore Justin Stone thrived in the outfield as a freshman last season. His season was cut short due to injury but had accumulated impressive numbers in 23 games. He led the team with a .371 batting average and .557 slugging percentage. He also hit two homeruns which helped his case to be recognized as an All-CCC Third Team member.

“Pitching should be strong,” said Coach Tower. “We have a strong class of senior pitchers that are really going to contribute.”

Of the four seniors, three of them are pitchers — captain Jimmy Smith, Mike Cardelle, and Sam Bennett. Including three seniors and 11 freshmen, the Hawks have 25 players listed as pitchers.

“This will be my fourth year as a starting pitcher and I’m pretty sure everyone on the pitching staff will look up to me,” Smith said. “The best way I can lead the pitching staff is the way I present myself on the field.”

The relatively new coaching staff’s main focus is the fundamentals.

“We’ve really been taking a lot of time to take care of the simple stuff,” Tower said, who’s entering his third year at the helm. “If we take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves… [We’ve got to] get back to basics and do the little things really well and make sure we’re not beating ourselves by being fundamentally poor.”

In addition to being fundamentally sound, this team will bring high energy and a sense of competitiveness to the field every day.

“This group has so far been very, very energetic and very competitive. They compete. They love competing,” Coach Tower said.

“It’s going to be very competitive,” Smith said. “There’s going to be a lot of spots up for grabs.”

“I think you can expect a very competitive and energetic team,” Bosco said. “I think that’s really the best way I think we’ve been looking at the preseason — a lot of energy and competitiveness. I think we’re going to have a lot of fun.”

The Hawks travel to Maryland for their season opener on March 3 with a doubleheader against Washington College and then head over to Pennsylvania the next day to play in a doubleheader against Swarthmore College. Their South Carolina trip during spring break consists of eight games. Their home opener will take place on March 26 against UMass Dartmouth.