The snow caps on campus are dissipating and that usually means the introduction of CSI’s spring allotment of sports, and the College of Staten Island men’s baseball squad will usher in the season when it takes the field today to open what is expected to be a promising 2011 campaign. The Dolphins, who bagged their 14th CUNYAC title a season ago and is coming off of an impeccable 31-11 year in 2010, is travelling to the Cal Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for a four-game swing before they attempt to open the season on their home turf back in the Northeast.
Great expectations follow the Dolphins, as the team executed a series of annals under second-year Head Coach Michael Mauro a year ago en route to a program-best 31 wins, culminating in a No. 3 seeding in the ECAC Metro NY/NJ Postseason Tournament. CSI also registered program bests a year ago in at-bats (1,487), hits (528), doubles (105), fielding percentage (.958), and strikeouts thrown (319). Indeed, the new season will surely have a tough act to follow when the Dolphins throw out their first pitch against Alma College Monday at noon.
“Our goal was to get to the NCAA national tournament,” said Mauro of his teams exploits in 2010. “I think we took a good first step, but we still have work to do. We are excited to get underway.”
There are reasons to be upbeat. The Dolphins are returning 13 players from a year ago, including a handful that are expected to lead the charge, compiling tremendous careers at CSI. The returning ace in the hole is southpaw pitcher and slugger Pat Gale. The ABCA/Rawlings First-Team All-American as a pitcher, he logged 78.1 innings a year ago, registering a 2.18 ERA with an 8-2 record andd 106 strikeouts, next to just 21 walks. He also batted a blistering .418, leading the team in hits (69), triples (5), and RBI (47) in his junior season.
The onslaught doesn’t end there. On the mound, the Dolphins return fellow starting pitchers Casey Mulligan, Nick Tingos, James Mardikos, Richard Anderson and Jeff Pontebbi. To compliment at the dish, CSI follows with the likes of Henry Roman (.372, 7 stolen bases), who was hobbled due to injuries down the stretch a year ago, along with hard-hitting Joe Cassano (.351, 15 doubles) and Sal Todaro (.339, 3 triples, 26 RBI).
CSI did lose some steam from a season ago, but Mauro & Co. are hoping to alleviate the load with a crop of outstanding first-year talent. A total of 12 fresh faces will join the staff in 2011 assuming a multitude of roles, including starting hurlers, power at the plate, speed on the basepaths, and sound gloves in the field.
“We have a good mix here,” said Mauro. “We have a bunch of guys who want to get out there and show what they can do and they will get their chances. Everyone is investing in getting us to the next level. It’s that team concept that we will take into the season.”
Mission number one will be simply to get the team to enjoy the comforts of the outdoors. Aside from running and sprinting drills and long toss exercises on the CSI Soccer Field, the squad has been unable to hit the outside diamond this year as the winter snow storms kept the field under a white sheet. That all ends this week, with the weather breaking and CSI traveling south to South Carolina. The Dolphins were able to utilize the trip to get their first outdoor practice on a baseball field on Sunday, and will open up with a doubleheader on Monday against Alma College (12 Noon) and Ohio Northern University (3pm).
The Dolphins, who were ranked No. 50 in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper’s NCAA Division III Pre-Season Poll, will surely be tested this season. Weather permitting, the team will open up the 2011 home schedule with a visit from Cortland State on Friday, who were national finalists a year ago. CSI also sees action against nationally-ranked Kean University and Salisbury University.