Baseball primed for bounce back year
Matt Gad—Sports Writer
After a 21-23 season that left the Owls without a playoff berth last season, head coach Tim Shea is hoping that a large number of walk-ons, as well as some transfers – specifically in new starting pitcher Ronnie Rossomando, a transfer from UConn – will lead them to more success this season.
“Rossomando’s a big pickup for us; he’ll be right at the top of our rotation,” Shea said. “That’s gonna help tremendously and then Nate Carney is feeling great so we’re really excited about our top two guys.”
He also said that redshirt junior Brandon Rentas, who hasn’t pitched during the last two seasons while dealing with a prolongued injury, is “getting himself back to where he once was after a great freshman year.”
“So that’ll give us a third guy and then we have some young guys competing. Brandon Ebert’s back and freshman Brandon White was drafted out of high school so we’re excited about some of those pieces,” Shea said. “And we’re going to have Tiki White back on the back end, a senior who’s been through it for three years now and really gives us some stability.”
In addition to recruits, they added walk-ons Jared Smith, Eric Ross, John Bucci, Nick Smith, and mid-season transfer from UConnAvery Point, Joe Nemchek.
“We have some good young guys,” Shea said. “Mike Ferrett is an infielder who swings the bat pretty well; Tommy White’s a swing guy who can play middle infield and pitch…we’ll see how those guys grow and develop as we move forward into the season. It really could be a difference maker for us if they grow up quicker than expected.”
Captain Jim Palmer, a redshirt senior shortstop, said he’s “ready to lead by example” in his final season.
“I want the younger guys to know how to work hard in practice and how you play. If you bring energy to practice you can bring that to the games and I want them to have fun with it,” he said.
“I want the younger guys been batting leadoff for the Owls his entire career, and said he expects to be back in the same spot this season. Shea is looking for a lot out of him and the other senior position players, such as Criscuolo, Nick Lamberti, Mike DeMartino, Connor Redahan and McNeill Finnegan.
“We’re looking for them to swing the bat well, play good defense and be an example to the younger guys,” Shea said.
Shea said he also expects guys like John Spoto, Tony Zambito, Nolan Cloutier and Isaiah Likely to perform well in increased roles this spring.
“We had that good year my sophomore year where we made it to the regional, so we’re just looking to bounce back,” Criscuolo said. “We want to set a tone and keep everyone dialed in at all times.”
Despite struggling in the previous season, the team was 27-16-1 two years ago and, as Criscuolo said, made it to the NCAA Tournament before being eliminated in two games. That year, the Owls built up a 14-4 in divisional play, winning the Southwest.
“We have some new additions who will definitely help us out early on and through the dog days of the season. We usually hit a little cold streak but we have some guys [this year] who will really help us out,” he said.
Before the season, a preseason coaches poll had Southern predicted to finish in fifth place in the Southwest Division.
The team will open the season Friday at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Fla. and be in Florida and Myrtle Beach, S.C. for nine games before they visit Bridgeport Mar. 1, their first game back home in Connecticut of the season.
The Owls open at home Mar. 5 with Post before heading back to Florida for a nine–game stretch. There, they will face NE-10 conference match-ups like Post University and Merrimack College. They will then return for a five game home stand starting Mar. 23 against Southern New Hampshire University.
Palmer said he thinks the key to having a successful season is to hit the ground running.
“We want to start off hot and just keep rolling,” Palmer said. “We want to get off on a hot foot and then just roll into the NE–10 season feeling confident.