Posted: Feb 28, 2018
BOSTON – The Suffolk baseball team is nine days away from opening the 2018 campaign – its 71st in program history – Friday, March 9 versus Albion in Winter Haven, Florida. Here are nine things to keep an eye on this season.
- Chant Chases History
Brady Chant enters his final campaign in Suffolk blue-and-gold already scattered throughout the Rams' record books, but looks to do more damage as a senior in 2018. The D3Baseball.com Preseason All-American has a chance to break every offensive record in program history and already leads the way in all-time triples with 22. The centerfielder from Warwick, Rhode Island, became the 2017 NCAA Statistical Champion in triples (12) a year ago and led all players in New England in total bases last season with 118.
Last May, the blue-and-gold hoisted the GNAC Trophy for the third consecutive campaign, marking a first in program history. Anchored by its senior class of Brady Chant, Seth Coiley, Mark Fusco, Ryan Pordes and Greg Speliotis, the Rams look to go for the fourpeat and have been picked do so by the league's eight head coaches in the 2018 GNAC Coaches' Preseason Poll.
The only one other team that has grabbed GNAC glory in four straight seasons is Saint Joseph's (Maine), who won the league in five consecutive campaigns (2010-14).
Suffolk has seven conference crowns (2000, 2002, 2005, 2009, 2015, 2016, 2017) on its resume, the most among its conference counterparts.
- Hill Highlights
On the hill, Suffolk has a wealth of arms to choose from. A total of 11 pitchers populate the Rams' roster; 10 RHPs, one southpaw – seven exclusive and a quartet who are also position players. Seniors Ryan Pordes and Mark Fusco look to provide a one-two punch in the starting rotation, with Kevin Sinatra, Charles Batchelder and Tyler Zell adding depth. The Rams will count on the freshmen arms of Johnny Maffei, Parker Browne and Rich Giandrea as well.
- Questions in the Infield and Catcher
Suffolk has big holes to fill throughout the infield after the departure of Kevin Belskie (.333/.429/.422, 39 RBI, 25 R), Sean Cameron (.293/.386/.360, 48 H, 32 R) and BJ Neil (.273/.368.354, 6 SB). Rookie Blasé Cormier is a candidate on the first baseline with sophomore Rich Gilbride and freshmen Rich Giandrea and Joe Rufo also looking to fill the void.
The final hole is catcher with the graduation of four-year starter, first-team all-region selection Matthew Brenner (.333/.443/.484, 36 RBI, 39 R). Four student-athletes are battling for time – freshmen Andrew Ashworth, Shane Lake, Steven Shamnoski and junior Tommy Shimchak.
- Out with the Old, in the New
Suffolk's lineup will have a much different look as six everyday starters and reigning GNAC Pitcher of the Year and first-team all-region selection Chuck Gibson are lost. To fill the void, four-year head coach Anthony Del Prete brought in 15 newcomers including Sienna sophomore transfer Rich Gilbride and 14 true freshmen – 11 positional players, two hurlers and two positional pitchers.
- Non-League Look
Suffolk's 14-game conference schedule is built around 26 non-league matches featuring seven schools from the 2017 NCAA Regional field, six of which can be found on Week 1 of D3Baseball.com/NCWBA's Top 25.
The Rams will get their first taste of top talent at the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational over Spring Break (March 9-17), as it faces #22 St. John Fisher and #19 TCNJ, before returning to New England where it will take on the likes of #3 UMass Boston, #25 Wheaton, Salve Regina and Tufts, who are receiving votes in the national poll, and Babson, also a 2017 NCAA participant.
Suffolk will also renew rivalries with Nichols and Western New England this campaign and continue the yearly meetings with Curry, Endicott, UMass Dartmouth, Mass Maritime, MIT, and Rhode Island College.
- Road Warriors
Suffolk will be put to the test often this season as it plays away from the friendly confines of East Boston Memorial Park in 16 true road games and 10 neutral site contests. The first quartet (10 games) of the blue-and-gold's season will be played on neutral diamonds at the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational in Auburndale, Florida.
Under Anthony Del Prete's guidance, the Rams boast a 30-24 road mark and are 24-22 in neutral outings.
- Monumental Milestones
The Rams look to join Division III Baseball elite company this season with the program's 1000th win. Of the 385 active baseball programs in D3 only 64 have surpassed 1K victories. Suffolk is 15 wins shy of the milestone.
Entering his fourth season at Suffolk and overall as a head coach, Anthony Del Prete is 21 victories away from his 100th with a 79-56 ledger. If he accomplishes the feat this year, he will be the fastest coach in Suffolk baseball history to record 100 wins as the Rams' manager.
- How to follow Suffolk Baseball in 2018
Family, fans and friends of Suffolk baseball can follow all of the action via the Athletic Department's website, GoSuffolkRams.com. Every game will be previewed and recapped with in-game live stats offered for every home event.
Members of Ram Nation are also encouraged to stay up-to-date on the Rams' official social media sites, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and use the official hashtag #RamNation for an insider's look at Suffolk's teams and student-athletes.