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A new look pitching staff looks to propel Hofstra to a successful 2019 season

A new look pitching staff looks to propel Hofstra to a successful 2019 season

Baseball season is right around the corner for Hofstra. The Pride is coming off a season in which they finished with a 25-25 record. A big step up from years prior, Hofstra is hoping to build off that .500 record and put together a great year.

This is a team filled with a lot of youth and new talent. After losing some valuable players from last season, this large group of newcomers are hungry for playing time and will do whatever they can to provide a spark and help win games. There are a lot of questions regarding this team heading into the new season, but also a lot of optimism.

“We’re going to have a really new club on the mound this year,” said head coach John Russo. “We lost almost 90 percent of our conference innings last year, so I’m anxious to see what the pitching staff looks like.”

 The pitching staff was one of Hofstra’s biggest strengths from 2018, but now, after losing some valuable arms, Russo and pitching coach Blake Nation will be keeping a close eye on what these new pitchers can do.

One of the valuable arms lost, John Rooney, was recently drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers and will leave a big hole in the staff. Despite the loss, Russo believes these new guys and the upperclassmen pitchers can step up and deliver quality innings.

“The guys on last year’s pitching staff got to see how confident Rooney was and how they can take that confidence into their game,” Russo said, “The one guy I’m really liking is Michael James. He really has it in his head that he wants to be that Friday night type guy. He wants to have that leadership role and he has really embraced the chance to replace Rooney on Friday nights.”

Michael James, who pitched a 2.26 ERA last season, is a guy with a lot of experience and definitely has what it takes to become the ace of the pitching staff.

With all the new talent this year, strong leadership from the upperclassmen is very important to have success. Players such as James, Vito Friscia, Andrew Mundy, Daniel Page and many more, have a strong ability to lead the team this year and help the freshmen, as well as other inexperienced players, improve.

“Any good team has good senior leadership,” Russo said, “They might have a little bit of hiccups or a rough outing, but we’re just going to sit and watch it and let them figure out how to get through it.”

There is definitely a lot of hope and optimism for Hofstra. The Pride has a lot of strengths, but just like every team, it has a lot of room for improvement.

The Pride was a great team on the road last season, which is something that can help boost the team’s confidence throughout the year if it is again. It was the only team in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) with a winning road record. If Hofstra can continue to produce away from home, then there will be a chance to have a lot of success. This season will bring the Pride to many different fields around the country, each one having a completely different atmosphere to play in.

“We’re home one time in 18 games so we’re going to have to become a really tight club quickly and a tough club really quickly, but more importantly, I think it will better prepare us for our opening away series at Charleston,” Russo said.

The Pride is also a very strong defensive team. They were second in the CAA to Charleston in fielding percentage at .976. With most of those same fielders returning, it is likely that Hofstra will continue putting up outstanding defensive numbers.

With most of Hofstra’s success coming from the defensive part of the team, the Pride’s offense still has some questions coming into this season. Hofstra had a .236 team batting average last season, which was No. 8 in the CAA. The CAA is also one of the top pitching conferences in Division I baseball. It will be a challenge for the Pride, but the right pieces to improve that offense this season are there.

Friscia is one hitter that has stood out for Hofstra over the years and is now in his senior year. The catcher has been their top hitter and was just named to the 2019 Preseason All-Colonial Athletic Association Baseball team. Friscia batted .353 with seven home runs and 31 RBIs last season, leading Hofstra in all three areas. There are big expectations for him this year. Referred to as the “Quiet Giant” by Russo, Friscia has been a strong contributor to this Pride lineup since his freshman year. He has gotten high praise from his coach, teammates and the CAA.

“The thing I really like about [Friscia] is he bleeds Hofstra blue. He’s all about the team winning,” Russo said. Friscia’s sportsmanship and camaraderie are some of his greatest qualities he has on this team.

“He delivers every time he is in the lineup and I’m really excited to see what kind of year catching he can do. With a really young pitching staff, I think he can have his imprint on this staff in a big way,” Russo said. Friscia has a great opportunity to lead the Pride’s offense to a strong season.

Russo is now entering his eighth season as head coach and is looking forward to getting back into the grind. Every year, he deals with new challenges and learns a lot to help better his team.

“The one thing I did this year is really try and adapt to the day and age of these kids,” Russo said. The use of technology in baseball, college and professional, has grown rapidly throughout the years. Hofstra has also joined in and has added some new ways to help their players improve.

“We really upgraded our technology ... We’re using Rapsodo for the pitchers for spin rate and spin efficiency. We’re using FlightScope for the hitters, for launch angle and distance traveled. And we’re using Synergy for recruiting and preparing for games,” Russo said.

 These additions have the ability to change the way the players and coaches prepare, improve and learn throughout the season.

 With all the hope, optimism and questions for this season, the Pride is gearing up for what should be an exciting year.

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