There might have been snow covering Loren Campbell Field last week, but that hasn’t stopped SUNY New Paltz’s Baseball team from preparing for their ultimate goal this season — to win a SUNYAC championship.
Armed with a pitching staff and lineup that is largely intact from
last season, the Hawks are hoping their experience and fundamentally sound game will deliver the program their first ever championship title and see an improvement from their 20-19 record last season.
“We have our goals we are looking to achieve, any team that sets out — their number one goal is to win a championship,” Head Coach Matt Griffiths said. “That is certainly the case for us and anything less than that we won’t consider a success.”
Griffiths said the team is working on winning “little battles” that occur during each game by focusing on the fundamentals he has stressed in practices.
The team will be tasked with completing different objectives such as throwing first pitch strikes and recording leadoff outs, which Griffiths said would lead to better chances to win.
In addition to the team’s focus on fundamentals, Griffiths said the team’s depth would provide the Hawks with the needed tools to have a strong season.
“I can honestly say one through nine, we have players we can expect to play well. And a lot of our guys are interchangeable, we can switch our No. 4 guy and our No. 7 guy on any given day depending on who is hot and who is cold,” Griffiths said. “It’s not necessarily [that] we are looking for one specific person, we are looking from consistency from top to bottom.”
Chris Paulicelli, the team’s starting second basemen who finished last season with a .284 batting average and had 21 hits over the 25 games he played, said in addition to the team’s depth, the work ethic of this semester’s group of players is worth noting.
“Everyone is buying into and wants to attain the goal to win a championship,” Paulicelli said. “Everyone is trying to get better everyday and get in the best shape they can. Our work ethic will put us over the edge.”
Both Griffiths and Paulicelli said the team’s roster, which only lost two seniors to graduation last year, will be a strength moving forward based on a better team chemistry and experience gained from the Hawks trip to the SUNYAC championship tournament last year.
Returning to the middle of the lineup this season will be fourth-year first basemen Jake Cameron, who slugged four home runs last season and led the team with 24 RBIs, and third basemen Matt Prescia who led the team with a .360 batting average.
Prescia said he believes this team has improved every facet of their game since last year, but the team’s pitching and defense will be driving forces of the team.
“Our ultimate goal is to not just make the playoffs, but to win a championship and go even further,” Prescia said. “Our pitching and defense is strong. We have a good team, we can do it. It’s going to be a good season.”
This year’s staff will once again be anchored by third-year ace Chris Chismar, who’s 2011 campaign boasted a 6-4 record with a 2.64 ERA in addition to his team leading 78 strikeouts. Chismar was awarded the 2011 SUNYAC Don Axtell Pitcher of the Year.
Griffiths believes the team’s pitching, offense and defense have all improved since last year, and sees no reason the team can’t compete for a SUNYAC championship — or more.
“Once we click in all aspects of the game at once, I don’t think it’s necessarily going to matter who we are playing in the game. If we play our own system and execute it well, the other team doesn’t matter. The only team that can beat us at the point is really ourselves,” Griffiths said.