The Marist Baseball team enters the 2018 season wearing the traditional red and white bracelet with this year’s team motto: “One Set of Eyes.” As a unit of one, the team is focused on repeating what they accomplished last year.
After finishing third in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), Marist won the conference tournament and earned an automatic bid for the Division I National Tournament in Gainesville, Florida. Last year marked the team’s first MAAC title since 2009, and the first championship under head coach Chris Tracz, who started his tenure in 2010.
Despite accomplishing their ultimate goal of making it to the National Tournament, junior shortstop Randy Taveras said there will be no ‘championship hangover’ this season.
“There is definitely more drive,” Taveras said. “We want to get back to where we were last year.”
Even the incoming freshman class carry the mindset of wanting to continue and build on last year’s success.
“We have a championship attitude,” freshman pitcher Trevor Backman said. “The upperclassmen always talk about how great of a feeling it was to win it all, and we will use that as motivation for us.”
After four seasons of finishing in the middle of the pack in the MAAC, redshirt senior Greg Kocinski is finally on a team that is seen as the favorite in the conference.
“We have a target on us now. Everyone is gunning for you,” Kocinski said.
This year the team is looking to make it even further in the National Tournament. In 2017, they lost in their opening game to the eventual National Champions, the Florida Gators, 10-6. The Red Foxes were then eliminated by the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats 4-2. Going 0-2 in the tournament left a sting on the team.
“The first thing we said when we got back from Florida is this was great, getting to be on ESPN and all, but we want to progress further on next time,” Kocinski said. “Obviously, we have to win the MAAC first.”
Taveras said that his goal for the team is to win a regional and shock the world. Taveras believes the team is capable to reach the College World Series in Omaha.
With high ambitions for this year, the team will need the freshman class to step up.
“Marist does not carry a full roster, so everybody is going to contribute and play,” Kocinski said.
Heading into the season, the team has some open spots in their pitching rotation. Starting pitcher Scott Boches signed with the Seattle Mariners after being selected in the 30th round of the 2017 draft. Boches started 13 games for the team last year with a 2.72 ERA. Starter Sean Keenan, who started 14 games for the Red Foxes and had a 3.24 ERA, graduated last year.
“The freshmen have been on point so far,” Taveras said. “They have been great in practice.”
Kocinski agreed, saying he sees a lot of firepower from this class. The players have been particularly impressed by Backman during the fall scrimmages and expect him to come out of the bullpen at the start of the season.
So what is motivating the team to chase after a repeat season? Kocinski says, “We like to watch the video of the final play to win the MAAC championship, seeing everybody go crazy and jumping out of the dugout to celebrate. I feel that you have to be crazy to not be motivated by that.”