Hitting Their Stride

This season, the New Paltz Baseball team has been playing against themselves —on purpose.

Throughout the spring, Head Coach Matt Griffiths has drilled a simple strategy into each workout: take each day at a time, minimize mistakes and execute fundamentals.

“Opponents are faceless,” Griffiths said. “Baseball is one of those sports — and the SUNYAC especially — where the team who makes the least amount of mistakes is usually the winner. In a sense, we are always battling ourselves.”

This season, the 2013 edition of the Hawks have posted a 10-12 record after starting their season in late February and are currently riding a four-game win streak.

Although the team has had a difficult time practicing — before last week, they had only one outdoor practice — Griffiths said all components of the roster have shaken off some of the rust that may have formed from the unusual schedule.

Throughout all of it, Griffiths said their strategy was consistent — play their game.

“This year, this is the toughest schedule we have had — and that’s on purpose,” Griffiths said.  “The SUNYACs are a dogfight every year and we wanted to make a schedule that was comparable to that, if not better. We want to be playing our best ball for the second half of the season, not necessarily the first.”

Despite eight total games being cancelled or postponed this season, the Hawks have entered a midseason stretch of conference games, and are anticipating a surge from players across the roster to propel them into the playoff hunt.

From now until the end of the season, the Hawks will only face three non-SUNYAC teams before the championship tournament begins.

Griffiths said the team has ridden the backs of their pitching staff in the first half of the season, anchored by a one-two combination of Chris Chismar and Andrew Grann and a surprise bullpen to compliment them.

Chismar, who finished last season with a 1.84 ERA and clocked in 63 strike outs in 53 innings, has continued his strong performance this season. Chismar currently leads Hawks starters with a 2.61 ERA and leads the team in strikeouts.

Grann, also a holdover from last year’s starting rotation, currently has a 3.83 ERA for the Hawks and is tied for the team lead with three wins.

Chismar and Grann displayed their importance to the team on Saturday, April 6 when they both  earned wins in a doubleheader against SUNY Oswego. In game one, Chismar tossed six innings and struck out seven batters. In the second game, Grann followed suit pitching six innings and striking out six Oswego batters.

Griffiths said while the starters have been “lights out,” the difference between last year and the current squad has been the production from the bullpen.

“We have been getting some real good innings from our bullpen,” Griffiths said. “That makes a huge difference.”

In the bullpen, Brian Soloman has anchored the late-inning relievers with a 1.29 ERA over his seven innings pitched. Opponents are only hitting .080 against the lefty.

On the offensive side of the ball, Anthony Repetto leads the Hawks with a .375 batting average, while Thomas Pinnola leads the team with 12 RBIs. Matt Carr, a transfer player who came to New Paltz last season, has also contributed to the offense with a team leading 17 runs scored.

Moving forward, Griffiths said the team will continue to stick to their day-by-day attitude with the expectation that each component of their team will come together and deliver them their ultimate goal — a SUNYAC championship.

“We can’t choose the weather, we can’t choose the teams we play necessarily, so it’s not about that, we want to focus on things we can control and play the game to the best of our ability,” Griffiths said. “Every year we are playing for a championship and the better we get at perfecting our own system, the closer we are going to get to that.”