By Chris Gionta
The last two years for the Springfield College baseball team have been a major start-and-stop process. They began the 2020 season with five consecutive victories — carrying a lot of momentum into their annual trip to Florida. Like many teams, no trip was made, and like all teams, their season ended prematurely.
The 2021 season started with a doubleheader split against WPI, but due to many cancellations, the team did not play for 34 days after their initial pair of games. After this lapse in action, they lost four games in one weekend to Clark.
The Pride’s regular season ended with them sweeping Emerson in a doubleheader, which got them into the NEWMAC tournament. That was where their season ended in a best-of-3 series to Babson. Springfield played 10 total games in 2021 and has played 15 since the start of 2020. Now they prepare for 37.
With the lack of closure from last season, four players are suiting up for their graduate year. The headliner of the group is outfielder Jack Cooney, who is in his third year being a team captain. He carries into 2022 a career .345 batting average and .437 on-base percentage in 360 plate appearances for the Pride. On the base paths, he has accumulated 42 stolen bases in 81 career games.
Also playing their fifth year this season is a rare two-way player in Noah Bleakley, who is a right-handed pitcher and first baseman. In 73.2 career innings pitched, he has 70 strikeouts and just 15 walks. On the offensive side, Bleakley has also driven 54 runs in 81 career games.
The remaining graduate students playing baseball for Springfield this year are Jack Simonetty and Jacob Shpur. Simonetty has been the starting third baseman for the Pride since the 2019 season and brings pop to the Springfield lineup. His power was displayed in the NEWMAC tournament when he hit a home run off of a Babson pitcher who earned first-team All-American honors that season.
Shpur, like most Pride players, has not seen the most action in the past two seasons; however, he has made the most of his opportunities. In 7.1 innings since the beginning of 2020, he has not allowed a single run.
Not all of last year’s seniors made the sojourn back to Archie Allen Field for 2022, which means there is some valuable talent that is no longer here. The most notable of the departed seniors was catcher Nick Fazio, who hit .400 with a 1.007 on-base plus slugging (OPS) in 39 plate appearances in his junior and senior seasons combined.
Luckily for Springfield, the team seems to be in good hands with junior Cadin Maynard potentially taking over the starting role. He caught the latter games of the doubleheaders the Pride played last year and showed strong capabilities with the bat. Maynard was 6-for-17 with four walks, two doubles and a triple in 2021.
Also not returning for the Pride is outfielder Conor Santoianni, who broke out in his senior year by hitting .286 with an .828 OPS and five stolen bases in eight games played.
Much like last year, Springfield head coach Mark Simeone will likely be doing a good amount of mixing and matching with his outfield. Nine outfielders are listed on the roster, with five hitting from the right side, and four hitting from the left side.
Along with Santoianni, Springfield will not be having Ryan Smith, who hit .280 with an .838 OPS in 32 plate appearances last season. Despite an impressive year offensively last season, one could argue that his defense at second base will be missed the most.
Likely filling Smith’s role will be senior Joe Penkala, who sometimes played second base in the last halves of doubleheaders last season. He went 3-for-10 with five runs batted in 2021.
The Pride are largely retaining the main contributors from the past few years. They have had a relatively young roster the past couple of seasons that has likely been growing skill-wise, and the developing players are more ready than ever to contribute. They will need all hands on deck for the 37-game season that awaits them.
It starts with five games in three days at home from March 4-6 against Nichols, Western New England and Westfield State.
Photo: Joe Arruda/The Student