St. Joseph’s College baseball is dreaming of championships.
The Bears, coming off two straight winning seasons and a program-record 20-15 season, hope to continue the momentum they started last season.
“Expectations for this season are the highest it has been in the program,” Bears associate head coach Jerry Sidman said in a press release. “We want to win the whole thing and establish our dominance.”
The team travels to Winter Haven, Fla., today to take part in the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational and open up the 2014 season – the team’s first-ever trip to the Sunshine State.
“It’s the first time, for some of them, getting on a plane,” said Anthony Macapugay, the sports information director for SJC. “It’s definitely going to be a good experience for them to see some new competition.”
In Florida, SJC takes on local rivals Maritime College and will also play Brandeis University and Alma College. The Bears return to Brooklyn on March 1 to open up their home schedule with a doubleheader again Rivier University and Albertus Magnus.
Three of the team’s most productive hitters – senior Joe Mendez, junior Thomas McKenna and senior Mike Cundari – return this season. Along with the core group of starters returning to the lineup, SJU has several newcomers to the team.
This season also marks the Bears’ first return to MCU Park – home of the Mets’ single-A affiliate Brooklyn Cyclones – since a year-long hiatus because of damage from Hurricane Sandy. This is the first time most of the athletes will play on the field, while those who have will step on the new turf for the first time. The Bears will play seven games at MCU – the most matches in program history.
“It’s a good experience playing in minor league park,” Macapugay said. “Many of the sophomores and newcomers are excited to have a number of games back at MCU.”
SJC will meet its sister campus – St. Joseph’s College Long Island – for the first time in baseball this year on April 16 in an “East versus West” rivalry match.
The Bears started last season in a Top 25 poll for four straight weeks and qualified for the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Small College World Series. This year, coaches hope to continue the momentum to attain another USCAA bid and one for the NCAA tournament, too.
“With the same strong start, we could have the same recognition,” Macupugay said. “Coming off last year’s season and just the growth of the last two years and not losing to many to graduation, the expectations are high.”