Coming off a season in which the team qualified for the Liberty League tournament for the first time in school history, expectations are at an all-time high for the 2014 Vassar College men’s baseball team. Returning from last year’s successful season are senior standouts Brett Zaziski and Joe Lovizio. Zaziski is aided by other returners, including sophomores Nick Johnson and Brooks English and senior Dave Robbins.
Lovizio will anchor a young staff that will include sophomore Jonathan Hong and two freshmen, Trent Berg and Adam Erkis, and will have sophomore Connor Cucalón in the back of the bullpen as closer.
In an emailed statement, Head Coach Jon Martin wrote, “I expect the team to compete every day we take the field. We are a talented club with a variety of lineup options that should bode well for our Liberty League weekends.”
He continued, “The only thing that matters in baseball is getting to the post-season. That is our ultimate goal, but to get there we need to play sound baseball, one game at a time. The season is a marathon, not a sprint.”
Lovizio, a team captain, added that, “We expect the team to be a strong competitor in the Liberty League this year. After our first playoff appearance in program history last season, the bar is set even higher and we are stronger than ever, hoping to not only finish in the top four but also win the Liberty League Championship.”
Lovizio continued, “We only lost a couple contributors from last year and those were our senior captains Mike Perrone [’13] and Zander Mrlik [’13]. Both were First Team All-Liberty Leaguers, as Mike was the best shortstop in the league and Zander one of the best pitchers. Their absence as leaders and players will be an adjustment, but I believe we are fully capable of building upon last year and playing even better.”
English echoed his sentiments about the state of the team: “I expect us to be very good. I think we have one of the most talented teams in the league and will definitely play everybody close. Our goal is to win the Liberty League and I do not see a reason why we should not do that if we play our game.”
Lovizio added, “My expectations for the team are as high as possible, as we have enough talent to beat anyone we take the field against.”
The Brewers are a well-rounded bunch, as Head Coach Martin indicated: “We will play as a team this year. No player needs to feel like they have to carry the load. We have a solid lineup in the middle with Brett Zaziski, Nick Johnson and Brooks English. We have a great utility player in Kyle Casey that will play a huge part in our strategy. And our pitching will be solid with Joe Lovizio anchoring the staff as the ace.”
Cucalón added that, “We should have a solid defense this year as well; Jason Garfinkel ’15 will set the tone with his fluid feet and soft hands at shortstop, and bring fire and energy to the squad with his loud and vocal leadership.”
The Brewers look to incorporate some strong freshmen that could help make a difference in the team’s performance. “We have quite a few freshmen who will be immediate impacts,” said Lovizio. “On the mound, we have Trent Berg, Adam Erkis and Mike Koscielniak, who will help us off the bump immensely this year, especially after the loss of Johnny Mrlik due to injury. In the outfield we have Brad Kendall and Denis Shanagher who will see play regularly and also infielder Noah Goldberg and catcher Rob Winkelann will have opportunities to help us as well.”
Touching on the loss of Mrlik, Cucalón wrote that, “Losing Johnny [Mrlik] for the year is tough for the team. Obviously, he’s a great pitcher, but more than that he’s a great teammate who helps everyone else get better. But this presents an opportunity for somebody to step up, and we definitely have some guys on the squad that will look to fill his role.”
The season started with an annual spring break trip to Florida, where the team played six games in seven days. Regarding the Florida trip, Coach Martin wrote that, “The trip to Florida was a good start to the season. We were able to play all six games that were scheduled against some solid opponents. It was a good tune-up for the season ahead.” Lovizio was encouraged by what he saw: “Florida was a quality start to our season. We started off 3-0 and then got a little banged up on the back end as we faced some tougher teams and lost the last three games, but overall, the team showed off its new and returning talent and demonstrated how fierce of a competitor we can be when we’re fully locked in.”
English agreed with this. “We had a solid Florida trip, starting off with three straight wins, highlighted by beating an NCAA tournament team last year, Franklin and Marshall, by nine runs. We played another NCAA team in Amherst and competed all game, losing 3-0. After those games, I have no doubt that we can compete not just within our league, but nationally as well. However, the tail end of our trip ended with unfortunate losses against beatable teams. It shows that we just have to prepare the same for every team we play, no matter their talent level.”
For the trip as a whole, Lovizio said that, “For their Florida performance, Brett Zaziski, Cory Wuenschell and Kyle Casey all deserve recognition as they hit the ball quite well during the trip. Brett showed early on that his reign as best hitter in the Liberty League last year will continue this season, and Cory and Kyle consistently hit well throughout the trip.” About the pitching staff, Cucalón remarked, “I was happy with the way our staff threw in Florida. Being outside for the first time since the fall and seeing some new arms throw in a game situation was great and just what we needed. We have some strong competitors who fight when they are on the bump.”
The team looks to build on the early success from the Florida trip to show that last year’s success was, in fact, a sustainable one.
As Coach Martin indicated in an emailed statement, “I am excited for our team to compete this year on the field and expect good things from them. We will be prepared and motivated to win every game. The league is strong, but so are we, and we look forward to stepping up to that challenge.”