The College of Staten Island’s collection of spring sports will be getting underway soon and first out of the gate is CSI Baseball, one of the few CSI teams having played a full Division II schedule last year within the East Coast Conference. With solid experience under their belts, the program will look to climb the ladder of success in what will be their final provisional year in 2022.
Last year, the Dolphins finished 7-17 overall and 6-15 in the ECC in their first run at an all-DII schedule. CSI stole wins over a few ECC member schools as well, including Bridgeport University, Queens College, Lincoln University, and three wins in a row against D’Youville College, a fellow provisional member of the conference having made the jump from NCAA Division III. The ECC released its Baseball Preseason Poll, and CSI will go in with much to prove, landing sixth in the poll, ahead of only D’Youville and Lincoln. The number-one spot this season belongs to Molloy College, who ended their 19-season drought without a title in 2021. Though CSI and D’Youville are still unable to compete in the postseason in 2022, they will factor into the standings as they did a year ago.
Head Coach Michael Mauro, who is in his 14th year managing the team, feels more prepared after a full year of DII competition under his belt. “We got a chance to see where we need to better ourselves and we have been practicing a lot in those specific areas to improve,” he said. “I don’t want to say we are coming in with an advantage, but we know the style we need to play to compete at this level, compared to last season, when everything was relatively new to us.” Mauro went on to mention that they now know what teams/players look like and who they are, what style they like to play, and what decisions some of their opponents’ players/coaches make in certain game-time situations. When asked to compare what would be the biggest challenge competitively competing in DII compared to that of DIII competition over the years, Mauro added “Depth, in general because DII is a different animal. In DIII, I may be able to get away with 11-12 pitchers on my roster, in DII if you don’t have at least 15-16, you will fall behind.” CSI learned in 2021 that games in DII are much longer, the level of play is better, and pitchers are made to work deeper. Mauro noted that more managing and more strategy are used at the advanced level as well.
In the world of social media, Mauro and his team have adopted the hashtag, #TEAMCHEM, to signal the team’s chemistry, an important factor in the team’s continued development. Mauro commented that the camaraderie among his players is the best he has seen in quite some time. Student-athletes, he notes, are buyinginto making one another better, on and off of the field. Mauro hopes that it will all translate competitively in a few short days. The team not only has a hashtag but a motto as well, “No Excuses, Figure It Out!” Mauro expects his players to use the preseason to become well-prepared, to know all the basics and then some, and to use their in-game experiences to learn how to adapt on the fly, and to read and react accordingly. Only game experience and being on the field can teach those things, and Mauro is looking forward to his team rising to that challenge.
In all, after losing the entirety of their 2020 due to COVID-19, CSI Baseball brings back 13 players from the 2021 season along with 13 newcomers, five of whom are true first-year students. Mauro recently named five captains, each of whom have different personalities and leadership skills. “I didn’t want just one or two kids that tell others what to do, how to do it or why, I wanted different types of personalities so that we can hit on many different things, and thus far it has worked out.” According to Mauro, that leadership will be heavily relied upon. Senior Adam Gonzalez; juniors Angel Santiago, Domenick Castiglione, and Alexis Santos; and sophomore Michael Diforte, will be expected to lead that charge.
On Mauro’s coaching staff this season, he brings back Associate Head Coach Patrick Daddio, and Assistant Coaches, James Mardikos and Matthew Bowers. Longtime assistant coach Bob Steele, who has spent the last 14 years as a volunteer assistant with CSI’s Baseball team, sadly passed away at the beginning of February 2022. A part of the Staten Island Sports Hall of Fame, and a celebrated sports icon on Staten Island, Steele spent nearly six decades of his life coaching both basketball and baseball, and serving in Athletics administration. He was 86. According to the coaching staff, his passing is one more wave of motivation coming into the season as they play for #CoachSteele. A full recap of his career can be found HERE courtesy on csitoday.com.
CSI will play their first set of games away as part of their Spring Training games in Myrtle Beach, SC, as part of the Cal Ripken Experience. Starting on Saturday, February 26, the team will take on Anderson University for a full nine-inning game at 7:00pm. On Sunday, February 27, CSI will take on the same team in a doubleheader matchup at 3:00pm. Then on Monday, February 28, CSI will face Limestone University in a doubleheader starting at 3:00pm. To finish off their seven games in four days, CSI will play Limestone again in another doubleheader matchup on Tuesday, March 1 with a high-noon first pitch start. These will be CSI’s first-ever games against both colleges who each already have ten+ games under their belts in the 2022 season. The full baseball schedule can be found HERE. The full baseball roster can be found HERE.
By: Sal Caruso