This time last year, the Springfield College baseball team picked up their fifth win of the season over Daniel Webster to end their annual trip to Florida. Fast forward to this year, the Pride ended their trip last week the same way; a win over SUNY New Paltz. Except this season is different, because Springfield departed the Sunshine State with eight wins instead of five.
Pride baseball has gotten off to a historically fast start compared to recent seasons. It has not hit the eight win mark before April since 2012. Currently, the team sits at 8-3-1, putting them second among NEWMAC conference opponents right before conference play begins. After starting the season 1-1-1, Springfield traveled down south and won seven of its nine games.
“I think we played as I anticipated we would in some ways with a number of contributors,” said head coach Mark Simeone.
In five of those games Springfield had four or more players register a RBI. Against Gordon and Cazenovia, the Pride saw eight different players drive in runs.
“It was enjoyable. It was good to see many contributing. I think it made us realize that we do have depth,” said Simeone.
Among those who broke out over the course of the week was Chad Shade. In the first three games of the season, Shade slashed just .143/.143/.286 with four strikeouts and zero RBI. Through the last nine games in Florida, the sophomore hit .400/.571/.760 with eight RBI, nine walks, seven stolen bases and two home runs. His Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) soared from .286 to .345.
“Chad [Shade] is a tremendous athlete with some really solid baseball skills,” said Simeone. “He has a solid throwing arm, very good foot speed. That’s an asset to him not only in the outfield but certainly on the bases.”
In addition to Shade, multiple freshmen contributed throughout the week. Noah Bleakley drove in five runs over three games in addition to pitching 5.2 innings in an 8-5 win against New Paltz. In that outing, he surrendered just one run on four hits en route to his first win of the year.
When given the opportunity, Jack Cooney has been excellent at the plate. While he had limited opportunities to drive in runs, but he went 5-12 (.417), and started several offensive rallies. Connor Santoianni made his collegiate debut in Florida and registered a hit in all but one game he was a part of. Like Cooney, he is hitting over .400 as well.
While Jason Bean and David Wells each played in four games, both of them still contributed at a high level. Bean went 3-4 with 2 RBI in the first game of a doubleheader against Farmingdale State. Wells hit .600 (6 for 10) throughout the week with 3 RBI.
“[Freshmen] are meeting expectations. We knew we had a talented group of freshmen, and the opportunities they’ve had to be in ball games, they’ve produced. I’m not afraid to call upon any of our freshmen,” said Simeone.
The pitching staff shaved the team ERA to just 2.87, highlighted by dominant pitching performances from Shawn Babineau and Brian Johnson. Babineau pitched a complete game one-hitter in the latter of a doubleheader against Farmingdale State. The sophomore struck out 10 and now sports a 2.41 ERA. This performance coupled with a 5.2 inning, eight strikeout performance against UMass Dartmouth earlier in the week earned Babineau NEWMAC and ECAC Division III North Pitcher of the Week honors.
Johnson got two starts in Florida as well. Opening the week pitching in Game 1 against UMass Dartmouth, he went 5.1 innings and gave up one run in the no decision. In Game 1 against Farmingdale State, the junior went the distance, pitching six innings and surrendering two runs on four hits while striking out seven. Unluckily, the Pride was shut out so Johnson took a loss that game. Nonetheless, he pitched a solid 11.1 innings, and boasts a 1.76 ERA.
“We pitched extremely well. We played solid defense over the course of the week, and had some timely hitting in some close, low scoring games we won,” said Simeone. “If anything, it proved that we can do some different things.”
Going back to that 2012 season, the Pride clinched the NEWMAC championship, eventually falling to Babson. The current team has the makings of a championship squad. Consistency will decide whether Springfield continues on this positive trend.
“An understanding that you have to play first pitch to final out to have a chance to win (will be crucial to our success). We are understanding that better than we ever have. I think we understood it in the recent past, but weren’t able to consistently do what we needed to do to maintain that level of competitiveness and intensity,” said Simeone.