One of the most beautiful sentences any baseball fanatic could hear: Pitchers and catchers report. And as MLB sluggers hit the fields for Spring Training, so did the Rowan Profs.
The team is looking to replicate its success from last year, having gone 29-18 and making the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship Tournament. The Profs have five NJAC titles since the conference changed from the New Jersey State Athletic Conference in 1985.
Head coach Mike Dickson returns for his fourth season, having gone 78-50 during his tenure. Prior to his debut season in 2015, Dickson coached for Rowan College at Gloucester County (RCGC) from 2005-2014.
Pat Fisher, Ryan Kulik and Mike Rucci round out the remaining members of the coaching staff that will be without the services of former Volunteer Assistant Coach Christian Lee, who has gone on to work in his own training facility.
Last season, three Profs made the All-Conference Team. Among the division, the brown and gold ranked first in hits, doubles and total bases. Rowan has finished over .500 every season since 1995, accumulating a total record of 665-309-4.
Dickson attributed the team’s success last season to the pitching staff, one that posted the second-lowest earned run average (ERA) in the NJAC, at 3.45, while playing the most games out of every team in the conference with 47.
“Andrew Cohen is throwing really well,” Dickson said. “Brad Machinski and Jason Clapper playing well in the tournament. Alex Kokos played really well, too. [On May 18, in a 10-2 win] Cohen punched out 14 Emory University batters. Obviously, if you have a guy that punches out 14 guys in a game, you have a good shot at winning the game.”
But, the tides have turned, as the Profs show a much different roster, especially in the pitching department.
“This year, we have a lot of innings to make up from last year due to new players,” Dickson said. “Last year, those [senior] guys, Rob [Grilli], Brad [Machinski], Andrew [Cohen], [Jason] Clapper, they did a good job for us. Obviously, this is a new year and one of the things you’ll lose every year is 6-10 players.”
As for this upcoming season, Rowan will be rolling with some returning pitchers and some new faces.
“Andrew DiPiazza and fellow junior Danny Serreino are the top-two guys in our rotation, but since the first game got postponed, they will throw only during practice,” Dickson said. “Andrew Cartier, who will be our number four starter, will replace them and start the game on Wednesday.”
Rowan hosts Stevens Institute of Technology, a game was originally scheduled for last Sunday but got postponed due to rain. Over their past five meetings, the Profs are undefeated versus the Ducks.
DiPiazza was phenomenal last season with Mercer County Community College, going 20-3 with a 2.39 ERA and an average of 11.3 strikeouts per-game. Afterwards, he was named the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II Pitcher of the Year.
Although only winning two games last season, Serreino never was accredited a loss, going 2-0 and averaging just under 12 strikeouts per-game and led the pitching staff in lowest opposing batting average (.129). Serreino completed the season with a 3.60 ERA in five starts in seven games.
Despite the roster’s losses, the junior pitcher is confident in the new-look Profs’ abilities come the 2018 campaign.
“Everyone seems to be bonding together well, coming together as a team and filling in the holes that we lost,” Serreino said. “Time will tell once the first game comes, how we’ll play together. As of practice right now, everyone seems to be bonding well… Last year, we thought we were better than we actually were, the mental side of baseball is the biggest part of it. A lot of kids thought too much into it. To think too much, you don’t have fun, and you have to have fun with it. Last season, our pitchers threw well, we had a good bond and, especially since there were a lot of seniors, we hung out a lot.”
Rowan defeated Stevens Institute of Technology in their season opener, 3-2, behind junior Dan Shane’s three hits and Cartier’s strong performance on the mound. He tossed five innings of two run ball and struck out four batters.
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