Touching Base: Marist Baseball Looks to Return to Dominance in the MAAC

After coming up short of a championship last year and finishing in fourth place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), the Marist Baseball Team is reloaded and primed for the upcoming 2019 season.

Two years prior, in the 2017 season, the Foxes went on a remarkable run that ended in the NCAA tournament. The season closed after losing a hard-fought battle with the number-one seeded Florida Gators. This year, the players and coaches are excited for the opportunity to regain that level of success.

With a few out of conference games already under their belt this season, Head Coach Chris Tracz aims to keep their goals simple: “It’s always been to win a championship. We have the most MAAC championships in the league and that has now become the expectation around here,” he said. “At the end of this season, we have a chance to be one of the best teams in the league.”  

The baseball team has been one of the more dominant programs on campus for the past few years. Tracz, a former Marist pitcher himself, does not simply have a love for baseball and this team, but he also shares a love for this school and campus. Tracz credits the school as a whole for the team’s success. “They allow us to recruit great players,” he said of the appeal of Marist College. “As any student would say, it is a great place to be.”  

Tracz is confident that every athlete on his squad will stand out and make an impact, but so far he is thoroughly impressed with the performances of sophomore pitcher Alex Pansini and freshman pitcher Ryan Cardona. “Over the past weekend, they had some really good outings. I was impressed with what I saw from the both of them,” Tracz said.

He also made it known they will rely heavily on redshirt junior Tyler Kapuscinski for team leadership, along with other veterans who will help the rookies find their footing early this season. “We have a lot of young guys and I want to take the burden off them a little bit,” Kapuscinski said. “I will put more pressure on myself during practices and games to ease them in, just like the way I was eased into it.”

Over the past few years, the Red Foxes’ main focus has been pitching. At times, the pitchers have had shaky outings, and that is the biggest concern heading into this year. However, Kapuscinski is confident they will turn this particular struggle around. “We are going to hit, we are going to pitch, and we are going to have depth in the bullpen that will make us do something special this year,” he said.   

One of those guys who will help aid those pitching wounds is left-handed pitcher and fifth-year senior Tony Romanelli. “I want to be there to lead these guys,” he said. “If they ever need anything, I want to be there for support.”

The Marist Baseball Team rallies together after a March 2018 win.

Romanelli, along with Tracz and Kapuscinski, believes the expectations are sky-high, with both a personal and team emphasis on pitching. “I think our pitching staff is going to be good. Right now, we are trying to establish some roles, once we figure out those roles, everything will start developing and something special will happen,” Romanelli said.  

The road to a championship will not be an easy one for the Foxes, but they are confident that they are starting off on the right path. When looking at the competition, many believe the toughest matches will come against Monmouth, Quinnipiac, and Canisius.  

And this is rightfully so: these three teams topped off the MAAC as Monmouth finished first, then followed Quinnipiac and Canisius. Marist did finish top 5 in the league, but are hoping for more this year. “Every game is a big game, but I am more looking forward to the conference series. When the time comes, we will be ready to play whoever, whenever,” Romanelli said.  

Marist had a rough weekend in Virginia to kick off the year, as they went 0-3 on the road to The College of William and Mary. They are looking to turn things around quickly, although this first month of the season will be a tough test for the Foxes. They will not play home at McCann Baseball Field until April 2. Until then, it will be a journey of traveling up and down the east coast to various locations including: North Carolina, South Carolina, Delaware, Virginia, Massachusetts and Connecticut.  

The 2019 season is just getting underway, and the Red Foxes still have to find an identity for themselves.  They know their abilities on and off the field, and as for the team’s biggest strength, Kapuscinski said, “It’s just how close we are all to one another.”

A team like this — one with great talent and a special bond — can go a long way in the MAAC, and hopefully also in the NCAA tournament.

Edited by Meaghan Roche & Will Bjarnar

Header art by Dan Fisch

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