The Rowan University baseball team’s 2023 season is filled with sky-high expectations, and it’s safe to say that they got off on the right foot during opening weekend.
The Profs’ first regular season game of the year was against the Virginia Wesleyan University Marlins. Coach Mike Dickson’s squad participated in three games over a two-day span, from March 4 to the 5. The game featured a doubleheader on day one. In addition, Rowan was able to win all three, outscoring the Marlins by 18 runs and scoring 43 total runs over the weekend.
“They did a great job,” Coach Dickson said. “Any time you’re able to score 43 runs on a weekend, you’re doing your job offensively. The wind was blowing out 35 miles per hour, and we were playing in a short park. That definitely played into it, but we both played on the same field.”
Newcomer Phil Sedalis, who made his mark by going 7-10 with two home runs and 9 RBIs in his first two games with the Profs, couldn’t hold in his excitement about the team’s lineup and how high their ceiling is.
“one through nine, there’s not one bad part of our lineup, even our backups,” Sedalis said. “We have some freshmen that can hit very well, so there’s no downside to our lineup as a whole.”
On day one, Sedalis couldn’t have found a better way to introduce himself in his Profs debut. Coming to the plate with the bases loaded in the top of the first, Sedalis saw a pitch he liked and took advantage, blasting a grand slam in his very first at-bat with Rowan.
“Going into it, I was very excited,” Sedalis said. “I played two years of college baseball before, but there nerves were obviously there, with that being my first at-bat as a Prof. But I had people on base, and my main goal was to try and get a base hit to the right side. I had two strikes on me, and he hung a slider. I tried keeping it up the middle, but I got one out.”
Overall, Sedalis’ first game was a big one, with both home runs and all but two of his nine RBIs on the weekend coming during the first leg of the March 4 doubleheader. Although the sophomore from Wenonah, New Jersey put on a show in his first time donning the brown and gold, Sedalis claims there was some added pressure to perform playing in front of the Profs’ faithful for the first time.
“I wanted to make a name for myself and show them what I got,” Sedalis said. “I’ve been working hard with this team since the fall into the preseason. I wasn’t trying to do anything too big, but I was in the middle of the lineup, so I wanted to capitalize on the times I had people on base.”
Another notable offensive performance was punched in by junior Dylan Maria. Similar to Sedalis, the utility man from Blackwood, New Jersey, turned in a huge performance on day one, going 6-11 at the plate and totaling two home runs, six RBIs, and six runs scored.
“I’m just trying to hit balls hard, produce for my team any way I can,” Maria said. “If the ball goes, the ball goes.”
Maria is another returning veteran, and he shared his thoughts about how he thinks this season’s lineup stacks up to last year’s.
“Still a lot of work in progress,” Maria said. “Last year, we had a lot of returning players, a lot of veterans coming back. This year, we have a lot of new guys, but they’re on the older side. Compared to last year, I think we might have a little more talent. Not to bash last year’s team, we made it to the super regional. The bar is just set high for the team this year.”
Maria’s contributions did not stop there, and they even flipped to the defensive side of the diamond during Sunday’s game. In the midst of the Profs’ third and final game of the weekend, Maria pitched in relief of Jake Reese and contributed an inning on the mound in the bottom of the eighth.
The swiss army knife role is one that Maria thrived in last season, and contributing in all areas of the field is something that he takes pride in.
“I take a lot of pride in that,” Maria said. “I work my end off on both sides; hitting and on the mound. If one day I don’t do that well at the plate and I go on the mound and get a shutdown inning for the team, or if I do it with the bat, just any way I can contribute I take pride in.”
According to Coach Dickson, Maria thriving in all aspects of the game is an integral part of the team’s success.
“At this level, if you get players that can do both; especially when you get towards regional time when rosters go down to the twenties; having those guys that can do both is huge for us.”
Sticking with Profs’ pitching, there were multiple transfer pitchers who made their Profs debut over the weekend. Two of Rowan’s notable pitching acquisitions got a chance to start, as Zach Grace pitched four innings and gave up three earned runs in game one on Saturday, and Matt Choi started on Sunday and gave up one earned run in three innings.
There were other newcomers who pitched in relief over the course of the weekend, but Coach Dickson noted that improvement on the mound must be made.
“We gotta throw more strikes,” Coach Dickson said. “Jake Reese did a great job; he was our best guy on the weekend. Overall, we need to improve on our strikes that we’re throwing. Pitch counts got up a little bit, there were just some plays that weren’t made that need to be made.”
Circling back to the Profs’ lineup, there are multiple returning sluggers from last year’s team in addition to Maria, such as Ryan Murphy and Anthony Schooley, among others. The Profs expect greatness out of them, but if guys like Maria and Sedalis can keep up their play from last weekend, Coach Dickson claims there is no limit on how far Rowan’s lineup can go.
“We can score a ton of runs this year,” Coach Dickson said. “I think Phil [Sedalis] is as athletic as there is at the Division III level; he can really run. He probably made a game-saving catch on Sunday… Just what he’s given us with his athleticism has extended our lineup. Dylan [Maria] getting in there… He’s going to hit with a lot of guys on base throughout the year. Hopefully, he continues to produce the way he did this weekend.”
In what’s expected to be another championship season for Coach Dickson and company, the Profs gave no reason for pessimism against Virginia Wesleyan. Rowan’s next game is March 9, when the team kicks off their RussMatt Central Florida Invitational play against Aurora University.
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