There’s no secret that wherever the College of Staten Island baseball team goes, great expectations follow, and the 2017 season is set for launch this weekend and as usual, the Dolphins will be looking to make noise every step of the way, chasing a championship and an extended postseason. CSI opens with a doubleheader on Saturday in Myrtle Beach, SC, against Southern Virginia University. The Dolphins are the back-to-back CUNYAC defending champs and alongside a title defense, CSI will always be keeping an eye on a more regional and national showcase of its distinguished program.
“We are always up against the weather so right now we are just looking forward to getting outside and taking it one game at a time,” said Head Coach Michael Mauro. “We have a very experienced team that knows what it’s doing and where it wants to go so for us it’s about getting down to business and rolling out the season the same way we always do.”
Mauro begins his 9th year with the Dolphins program this year and he expects his teams to always surpass normal expectations, the team has posted a 51-28 mark over the last two years, but the NCAA National Tournament has proved elusive. The CUNYAC does not yet have an automatic qualifier for its champion so the Dolphins are really at the mercy of an at-large bid to get there. That could change soon as both the University of Maine – Presque Isle and Finlandia University have committed to joining the CUNYAC as associate members. Until then CSI will battle it out with hundreds of other schools for a precious few at-large berths.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s been frustrating, between not being invited when we felt we were good enough and having teams come and go in the conference,” commented Mauro on the situation. “But we can’t concern ourselves too much with what we can’t control. It’s a roller-coaster sometimes but we will just let it play out and hopefully these new developments work in our favor.”
And so the Dolphins will be going into 2017 with hope, but have plenty of reasons to be optimistic. The team is returning 17 players from a year ago, including top CUNYAC pitchers Tom Musso and Christian Capellan, Tournament MVP outfielder Glenn Glennerster, and veteran infielders Frank Muzzio, Frank Sconzo, Bobby Drake and Josh Mercado. The Dolphins certainly lost a few major pieces, but Mauro is high on his veterans, especially now that they will get a great deal more time on the diamond.
“I tell you we have a great deal of leadership on this team and that’s more than half the battle,” he said. “We count on our seniors and our returners to get ourselves through and that veteran presence is everywhere this year and I am very excited about that. We have guys coming back who will help us keep our championship stride as well as provide a calming influence to the younger players.”
There is a reason why Mauro’s teams are consistent winners (CSI has posted seven-straight winning seasons) and that is the ability for the Dolphins to roll with change and their ability to recruit. CSI’s roster is littered with 11 first-year faces, an eclectic mix of stars who should hit the ground running, can add much needed depth, and whose best baseball is very much ahead of them. A perfect mix to keep CSI at the top and at the same time, building towards the future. Look for transfer pitchers James Taunton and Derek Jentz to be fixtures on the mound, while big bats Nick Meola and Sean Becker to add plenty of punch at the plate right in the heart of the lineup.
“The greatest complement I can pay our new kids is that they are not intimidated or shaken by the speed and difference in the college game, because it is a great deal different than high school baseball,” Mauro noted. “I feel a lot of our new faces can fit right in and make it seem like they’ve been here for years and that’s normally a big challenge with recruits, even ones with a lot of raw talent.”
Mauro thinks that the mix between old and new will make for a nice product at the end of the day, something that the fans will enjoy coming out and seeing.
“We have a lot of speed this year as a team and we can pitch,” he said. “If we string together runs and play sound defensively, I think we can have one of our best seasons in quite some time here. It’s easy to get excited about what we can do this year and the quality of baseball this group is capable of playing.”
The crafty mix and deep roster obviously has Mauro upbeat. It is needed when faced with the challenges he puts in front of his teams each year. The CSI schedule is often one of the more rigorous in the conference and the region. Mauro contends that in order for the team to be its best and play its best, it needs to play the best that the region has to offer. Expect no pushovers this season.
“We like to play teams that we are level with and above,” Mauro said. “It’s easy to load up a schedule with weaker teams and post a great record. I would rather us earn a great record by beating some of the area’s best teams, because win or lose those games make us better, and it’s one of the reasons why we tend to play stronger when it comes to the playoff push.”
With a deep roster and a loaded schedule CSI will go out in 2017 with one thing in mind, a successful defense of its CUNYAC title. According to Mauro, it’s a challenge the team is looking forward to. Each year the CUNYAC presents unique challenges and a bullseye square on the Dolphins’ back, and that is welcomed by the head coach and his pupils.
“I’ve always felt we play better when that bullseye is on our back,” Mauro suggested. “It keeps us on our toes and doesn’t allow you to take a game or even an inning for granted. Teams pitch their better pitchers against us and save their best efforts for us. It’s one of the by-products of being successful in the past and we play better when that pressure is on.”
Mauro wants his team to has a successful defense of its championship, and he is not ashamed to admit that the elusive berth into Nationals is his end goal, however, he also contends that his true source of happiness will rest in whether or not his team is able to put its best baseball out there on the diamond by the end of the season, growing with each 9 innings, and having fun while doing it.
“What makes me happy as a coach is having our guys give 100-percent of what they are capable of and then letting the baseball take care of itself,” Mauro said. “The goal is to take each game as serious as you should and to enjoy the game as you go. Baseball needs to be fun. If it’s not, you’re probably doing something wrong. If you’re enjoying it while taking it seriously and demanding the most out of yourself then that’s the success and the beautiful part of the season.”
CSI home baseball games are FREE and PG-CLUE Certified for all students. Most CSI home games will be broadcast live via CSI SportsNet and will feature live statistics as well. After this weekend’s spring through Myrtle Beach for three-straight doubleheaders, the Dolphins will play the first of six-straight home games with a doubleheader against St. Joseph’s College (BK) on Saturday, March 11, at 12 Noon. They open up CUNYAC play on April 1 at John Jay College.