BY Katherine Howerter
The Sacred Heart University baseball team has been voted to finish fourth out of eight teams in the Northeast Conference (NEC) preseason poll. According to Athletic Communications, the team has made the conference tournament 10 times over the last 11 years. The Pioneers’ season will begin with a three-game tournament against the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams on Friday, Feb. 21.
Senior shortstop and second baseman Stephen Thibault said that he doesn’t look at the preseason rankings too hard.
“It doesn’t really matter what you’re ranked. It’s all about getting to the games and giving your best and seeing how it turns out after,” said Thibault.
During the off-season, the team has been working through fall ball and winter training to hone their skills and welcome in the new members of the team.
“It’s exciting to see the new guys come in every year and see the talent that they bring to the team,” said Thibault. “These guys are more committed to the team rather than themselves.”
The off-season allows for the newcomers to the program to become acclimated with their new team and teammates.
“Fall is a crucial point in our season. From an upperclassmen’s perspective, we do not have a lot of dead weight on the team this year,” said senior Jake Frasca. “Everyone has bought into the process of achieving one common goal, and that’s to win games.”
According to Athletic Communications, Frasca led the team in eight categories including at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, extra-base hits, runs batted in (RBI), slugging percentage, and average.
“I set high standards for myself every year. I dedicated myself to the game and to the best person on and off the field,” said Frasca. “You have to be healthy and take care of yourself to ensure success for the team.”
Frasca is not the only member of the Pioneers that has specific expectations for the team this season.
“My personal goal is to make the guys better each day, and to keep their short focus sharp,” said head coach Nick Restaino. “We have to take it one day at a time to achieve our goals to win the NEC title.”
Restaino added that he hopes the newcomers provide a lift to a team that returns much of their core from last season.
“We have freshmen like Jack Kramer and David Aufiero, who had very good fall sessions and are willing to step up and hopefully will add onto the success of the team,” said Restaino. “Brent Teller and Cooper Thompson are coming back from injuries this season and really contributed to the rotation of players that allowed them to go to the playoffs in previous seasons.”
For Thibault, he has put the early stages of this season in perspective, with it being his senior year.
“Being a senior has made me realize that when you look back, it’s not about what you did by yourself, it’s about what your team did as a whole and seeing what you helped them accomplish,” said Thibault.