Russo expresses optimism in youth movement
Hofstra baseball head coach John Russo can be found in his office on an early Wednesday morning in his gray quarter-zip Pride athletics shirt, finishing up phone calls with a hearty laugh. His desk is flooded with pictures of his family – mostly his children – and behind him are roughly 20 different Hofstra baseball caps. While his office is a representation of the passionate, family-oriented and sincere person that he is, Russo knows just how vital it is to drastically improve the on-field production that has resulted in a 29-74 record over the past two seasons.
“The main thing we have to do is start winning close games,” Russo said. “To figure out how to play much better from the sixth inning to the ninth is something we have to focus on a lot more.”
For a team that has finished in the bottom half of the conference more times than not in the past five years, there is a surprising feeling of optimism with this year’s team. Russo harped on a few freshmen he believes will make a name for themselves this season, and he has faith in the veterans to keep performing at a high level. With a team that features 10 freshmen and just five seniors, the Pride are on a youth movement, and Coach Russo embraces it to the fullest.
“Having guys like Jimmy Joyce, Austin Gauthier, a solid position player, and even a JUCO [junior college] transfer in Matt Siedem will pay off in huge dividends being behind the plate for guys like [John] Rooney and [Teddy] Cillis,” Russo said.
Russo mentioned Cillis a handful of times, almost baffled by how his improvement and above-average performance last year resulted in a shocking 0-10 record in 15 appearances for the redshirt senior. Russo also praised how his team’s pitching and hitting could easily be top in the conference if they collectively learn how to finish opponents out down the final stretch of most games.
“I think that, much like everyone else, [the players] are frustrated with two 14/15 win seasons. I think they take the little things more importantly now and are paying closer attention to detail as well and understanding that winning and losing these close games are just a matter of one or two plays down the line,” Russo said.
Though Russo believes the main conference threats and favorites to be UNC-Wilmington and Elon University, both of whom have returning All-Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) players, the entire conference is going to be in the same place that Hofstra is, which is hungry to dethrone those at the top.
There are more than enough reasons to be optimistic about this year’s team for all Hofstra fans.
Not only will a crop of new players begin the process of meshing together for years to come, but they also will possess the hunger and desire to win for those upperclassmen who so badly want to be on a winning team before their collegiate tenure is up. There may just be a CAA storm threat brewing in Hempstead.