By Lauren Lowther
Nick Restaino has taken charge as the new head coach for the Sacred Heart baseball team.
He is replacing Nick Giaquinto, who had coached the Pioneers for the last 29 years. Restaino had been the Assistant Coach and Recruiting Coordinator for the Pioneers for the last three seasons.
“I had the great opportunity to learn from coach Giaquinto who is a tremendous man, mentor, friend, and leader,” said Restaino.
Senior captains Cody Doyle and PJ DeFelippo are excited and optimistic about the new coach and the season.
“It has been an easy transition for us because he has been on the staff for three years,” said Doyle.
Prior to coming to Sacred Heart, Restaino served many different positions in other baseball programs.
He got his start assistant coaching at Lehman College and Manhattan College. He then went to Fordham University for 13 seasons, serving seven of them as the head coach. Lastly, he served as the hitting coach for Southern Connecticut State University (CCSU) before joining the Pioneers.
“We have a good relationship with him and he relies on the seniors to provide him with feedback,” said DeFelippo. “He has had previous head coaching experience, I think he will do a really good job and we expect he will take us to new heights.”
Doyle is excited to finally have the season underway. They traveled to Virginia to play three games during the weekend of Feb. 23-25.
The season officially began on Friday, Feb. 23 as they took on Norfolk State University. The Pioneers won the season opener 9-4. While on the Virginia road trip they faced Stony Brook University on Saturday but were unable to secure a win, falling 7-6. They lost to Iona College on Sunday, 6-5.
As the transition into his role as head coach of the Pioneers continues, Restaino is focusing efforts on specific aspects of the game for the 2018 season.
“We are going to focus on three main areas which are pitching, defense, and hitting,” said Restaino. “If we can do all three well, we can expect to win a lot of games.”
He has a lot of confidence in the team’s ability to succeed on the field this season.
“I think we have the best catcher in the league in Cody Doyle,” said Restaino.
Doyle led the Northeast Conference in throwing out base stealers, having a 53.3 percentage in 2016. He had 35 starts during the 2017 season, had a .266 batting percentage and a career-high 17 runs batted in (RBIs).
With the new season, new freshmen are added to the team’s roster. For the 2017-2018 season, 10 freshmen are in the lineup.
“I don’t know if we are deep in experience, but we are certainly deep in leadership with DeFelippo and Doyle serving as captains,” said Restaino.
DeFilippo has accomplished a lot for himself and the team. In 2017, he was Northeast Conference (NEC) Player of the Year. He also led the team with a .315 batting average, 44 RBIs, a .443 slugging percentage and a .396 on-base percentage (OBP).
DeFelippo feels really good about the team chemistry this year.
“Everyone gets along really well. There is a lot of respect for the players and coaches,” said DeFelippo.
The Pioneers have two rivals who they will be keeping a close eye on this season. Last season, Central Connecticut State (CCSU) won the NEC title for the 2016-2017 season, while Bryant University won the NEC title during the 2015-2016 season.
“Both teams have been very successful. They have strong talent and coaching staffs,” said Restaino.
Alongside team goals, DeFilippo also has a personal goal set for himself as a senior.
“Definitely want to walk out of here with an NEC Championship ring,” said DeFilippo.
Restaino has a lot of faith in the team’s ability to succeed this year and is excited about the season.
“We need to have a winning record, qualify for the tournament, and then take home the championship,” said Restaino. “It’s important to not only develop the players on the field but also through the classroom, community service and being strong individuals off the field.”
The Pioneers will travel to Baton Rouge, La. this weekend as they take on Southeastern Louisiana University, the University of Toledo, and the 23rd ranked team in the country at Louisiana State University.