Shea, Owls prepared for 2021 season
Mike Neville – Sports Editor
It has been over a year since the baseball team graced the diamond at the Ballpark at SCSU due to COVID-19. After much uncertainty America’s national pastime is back at Southern for the spring 2021 season.
“The guys are excited. We’ve been at it. Now this is our third week after a year layoff and not knowing what was going to happen with COVID, we have the opportunity to be back together again,” said head coach Tim Shea.
The winningest coach in the history of the program is entering his 19th season at the helm of the baseball team.
Compared to last year’s team, Shea said the experience level has improved greatly but there is unfinished business that needs to be taken care of.
“We only had a 10-game schedule last year. We played a lot of young guys that got experience so that’s a plus for us,” said Shea. “We returned all of our pitching, so that’s a huge plus and we are really excited where we are at.”
First basemen Jack Drewry, a sophomore and one of the young guys Shea talked about, had a very impressive start to the 2020 season before it ended slashing two home runs and hitting well over 300.
“When I wasn’t playing, I made sure to hit often and get my swings in, keeping consistent and just being ready for whenever we get the chance to play again,” said Drewry.
In addition to returners, incoming freshman are also high on the podium for Shea, who believes there are some who will make a big impact on the team and be part of a promising future.
“The freshman class is really good. We have two freshman pitchers we are counting on: Mike Szturma and Steve Phillips could be rotation guys right off the get go,” said Shea. “We have a couple infielders, Chad Fedeli and Derrick Jagello, catchers Josh Wettemann, Brandon Keeler.”
Shea said transfer student from Binghamton, Andrew Eng, will also be a key part in the middle on the lineup at center-field.
The team usually starts the season with a spring training trip to Florida.
Due to COVID-19, the only opponents this year will be in-conference opponents.
There are a total of twenty-four games on the schedule currently, with sixteen at Southern and 8 away.
Shea said he is making sure his players are doing what they can in order to lessen the chances of anyone on the team contracting COVID-19.
“We need to control the things we can control, masking up not having large gatherings, being socially distant so that it doesn’t come and hurt our team,” said Shea.
The baseball team is ranked 9th in a ranking done by the Northeast 10 Conference heading into the season, although this does not concern Shea as he is very confident with his core players.
“Rankings are rankings. They don’t concern us,” said Shea. “We are pretty young but we are deep and it’s going to be exciting to see what we can do this season and in the future.”
Every player also got an extra year of eligibility thanks to COVID-19, like Mike DeMartino and Tony Zambito who have been key parts of the team since their freshman year.
“Since we get eligibility back, I am going to be here an extra year, get another degree and stick around for my final year of eligibility,” said Zambito.
The thought of not playing again never crossed Zambito’s mind since his competitive drive is high and history for him is on the line.
“Since day one I’ve wanted to break the steals record held by Nick Lamberti somewhere in the 70’s so I have been trailing him for a bit hoping for a full season so I can snatch that from him,” said Zambito.
Tony and Shea shared the same mindset when it comes to playing. They just want to get on the field again after such a long hiatus
“I just want to get out there with my teammates, bats will take over, pitches will take over when the time comes,” said Zambito. “I haven’t played in over a year and ill be here until someone tells me to go home.”
Photo credit: http://www.southernctowls.com