Rowan baseball prepares for 2024 with a chip on its shoulder

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Marco Mannino at shortstop. The junior is battling Chris Serrano for a starting spot in 2024. - Photo via Rowan Athletics

Rowan baseball ended its 2023 with a 30-13 regular season record that earned the Profs their fourth consecutive New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) regular season championship. Unfortunately, the team wasn’t able to win the NJAC Tournament, falling to The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) and Kean University on its home field in Glassboro.

Rowan wound up bouncing back in the NCAA Regionals, sweeping through the competition en route to becoming regional champions for the third consecutive season.

The Profs’ season ended in the NCAA Super Regionals against Salisbury University. In the second game of the best-of-three series against the Sea Gulls, the Profs experienced an uncharacteristic collapse, as a 12-5 lead entering the seventh inning quickly evaporated into a 17-12 loss. As a result, Rowan fell just short of making a College World Series appearance.

With 2024 on the horizon, Head Coach Mike Dickson is entering his ninth season leading the charge for the Profs and wants nothing more than to accomplish a goal that his team hasn’t done since 2021.

“Our goal each and every year is to go to the College World Series,” Dickson said. “Being that close to a College World Series again for the second straight year and falling just short is nothing less than disappointing.”

The task won’t be easy for Dickson and company as there are many key players from 2023 that won’t be returning. Some important losses from last season include catcher Brian Gallante, shortstop Chris Curcio, right fielder Ryan Murphy, ace starting pitchers Zach Grace and Jason O’Neill, and closing pitcher Christian Bascunan.

Despite the massive roster overhaul, Dickson is not concerned, as this is not the first time the experienced head coach has had to deal with this type of situation.

“Every year you’re gonna lose players, so you’ve got to be able to replace those players year in and year out,” Dickson said. “After 2021, we lost nine of our ten starters and everyone thought ‘How are we going to respond?’ And we responded by going back and winning the regional again.”

The big returning pieces for the Profs include second baseman Tyler Cannon, who broke Rowan’s record for doubles in a single season last year, along with seasoned pitchers Mike Shannon and Jake Reese.

Rowan also still has its main slugger Dylan Maria, who is entering his senior season after leading the team with 14 home runs and 68 RBI to complement a .358 batting average.

Maria is not only excited for the returning players but also highlighted two players who are in the thick of a position battle to become the starting shortstop.

“Marco Mannino and Chris Serrano are battling hard every day to show why they deserve to play shortstop, but I see every day in practice that either of them will step up in a big way,” Maria said.

Thomas Sullivan is another player whom Maria is excited to see get a chance to play and contribute in a big way this season.

“Sullivan is coming back from injury. and he’s been injured as long as he’s been here. So it’s exciting that this year he’s finally getting his chance,” Maria said.

Sullivan only appeared in two games total between 2020-2021 and didn’t play the entire 2022 and 2023 seasons due to injury. He did show flashes in the time he was out there though, displaying a 2.08 ERA while only giving up seven hits and striking out ten batters in 8.2 innings pitched. If fully healthy, he will surely shore up the Profs’ bullpen.

Rowan will play its first stretch of games of the season in Salisbury, Maryland starting on Friday, March 1, kicking things off in a clash against Johnson & Wales, followed by a doubleheader on Saturday, March 2 against Oswego State and the Salisbury Sea Gulls in a Super Regionals rematch.

“We just need to stick to our normal game plan,” Maria said. “Our guys can hit, and if we add good defense along with excellent pitching, it’s gonna be really tough for any team to compete with us.”

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