By Remi Manna
Bryant university baseball has been dominant in the NEC since their entry in 2008. In the past four years, they have won 3 NEC championships and are predicted to win another in 2017. Last season was one of Bryant’s best with one of the best records in the NCAA at 47-12. The 2015-2016 team produced a rookie of the year, multiple all-NEC players and 3 draft picks. The baseball team has become a household name, and the pressure is on.
Currently the Bulldogs have only won 3 games, losing more than they lost all together last year with 17 losses. The inexperience of the team could be the driving force behind their slow start. With ten true freshman and sometimes as many as six starting, the team is very young. Former Rookie of the Year Nick Angelini believes the inexperience could be the biggest factor. “The change from high school to college is a tough transition,” says Angelini. “Last year in the fall I was struggling with the change.” Angelini acknowledges that the thing that helped him were two upperclassmen role models that were always able to calm him down. “All of the seniors helped me out last year with everything. Mike Lanza and Dan Palazzo were the guys that looked out for me out there,” he continued. Good leadership on a young team is very important. Bryant is headed by juniors Mickey Gasper and James Karinchak and senior Cole Fabio, who all have tried to help the freshmen with the transition. “James Ciliento came from the same home town as Cole (Fabio). Cole’s been looking out a lot for James, that goes for Vito too,” said Angelini of his captains. “If you’re lucky enough, you get to have one of those guys in your life.”
Bryant has also had a few key players get injured, one being freshmen standout Ryan Ward, who started all the games he played in. He is out for the season with a wrist injury. Possible draft pick, pitcher James Karinchak has also been injured but he is day to day. Angelini acknowledged the loss of his fellow players stating, “It’s tough when you have key players go down because those guys, Ryan Ward in particular, didn’t have a lot of experience so his back up wasn’t going to have a lot of experience. We’re a pretty inexperienced team right now. It’s hard for people who haven’t played or established a role to step up and be the guy that others look up to,” said Angelini. “We’re all trying to do that and it’s hard.” Angelini believes that with time and experience their team will develop, and it’s the experienced players job to help them do that. When asked what the team could do to improve their play, he answered, “We have to come together a little more, focus more on team execution. Things will get better.”
Head coach Steve Owens doesn’t cut his team any slack when it comes to experience. Angelini praised his coach, “He bring players here to compete and he holds players to a high standard because he knows how good they can be. Experience or inexperience, the starting 9 have a job to do.” Coach Owens starts a lot of freshmen and they have been excellent in their respective positions. Ryan Ward, Jimmy Titus, James Ciliento, and Chris Wright are just some of the starters who have made an impact already. Bryant has received 6 NEC Rookie Of the Week awards already this season. The team has unyielding potential.
Despite Bryant baseball’s record, the team is confident that things will turn around. Bryant will face their first NEC opponent, Sacred Heart University, in their home opener this weekend. “My expectation is to come out 4-0 in conference,” said Angelini with vigor. “With the way things have been going, it would be very easy to throw in the towel and say that we’re done, but that’s not what this team is based on.” Angelini believes in his team and their progress. When asked about his goals for the season he replied with no hesitation, “Win the conference, win the regular season, and get to the regional.” The team has a lot of talent and it’s just a matter of time before things start to turn around for them. “Things are on the upswing and regardless of the record and whatever other statistics are out there, there are going to be a lot of good things that are going to happen this season,” said Angelini.
Bryant will compete Friday at 3:00 pm, Saturday at 1:00 pm, and Sunday at 1:00 pm at Conaty Field for their home opener.