Last weekend, Fordham baseball kicked off its season at the Atlanta Challenge. On Friday, the team fell to Georgia State, while on Saturday, it split a doubleheader against Georgia Tech. It was the start of what could be a significant season for the Rams.
Head coach Kevin Leighton’s speedy squad, which ranked sixth in the nation in stolen bases in 2014, begins this year on the heels of a successful campaign last season.
The Rams went just 13-14 in conference play and 24-30 overall, but they made some postseason noise with a dramatic extra-innings win over Dayton in the Atlantic 10 Championship. While they fell to Saint Louis in their next game, Leighton believes that the postseason experience was a positive one.
“Last year was a big year for us to break through and qualify for the playoffs and win a game out there,” said Leighton. “For our guys to be there and to have that experience was important in the future of this program.”
While the Rams do not have any games against conference opponents until a late-March series against Richmond, they will be playing several quality teams before then, including the University of Southern California, Sacred Heart and UConn. If all goes according to plan, Fordham will find its groove over the course of these games and perform well against its A-10 opponents.
“Qualifying for the [A-10] tournament is the expectation,” said Leighton. “I am excited about what I’ve seen out of this year’s group.”
The team is most optimistic about what it can accomplish on the mound.
“We are really excited about our pitching staff this year,” said Leighton. The starting rotation includes sophomore Brett Kennedy, Rams’ top pitcher last season who lead the squad in wins, ERA, strikeouts, games started and innings pitched. Meanwhile, sophomore Kirk Haynes was voted to the A-10 All-Rookie team last season and should continue to improve.
Leighton also cited juniors Jimmy Murphy, Joe Serrapica and Cody Johnson, as well as sophomore Greg Weissert as key pitchers for this year’s squad. Serrapica and Johnson were solid in both starting and relief duty, while Weissert should have no trouble improving on last year’s 9.29 ERA. Murphy has been injury prone, averaging just 18.1 innings per season during his time at Fordham, but the team will welcome his contributions this season.
Offensively, the Rams will be led by junior infielder Joe Runco and junior catcher and designated hitter Charlie Galiano. The former leads all returning players in batting average, hits and stolen bases, while the latter, who led the team in home runs last season, will be counted on for his power. Junior infielder Ian Edmiston, sophomore infielder Luke Stampfl and sophomore outfielder and catcher Mark Donadio should also be main contributors.
If there is one area in which the team as a whole could improve, it is fielding.
“In order to improve on last year’s team performance, I think we have to be a better defensive team,” said Runco. “We have the pitching staff to keep us in every game, so if we make the plays behind them, we should be much better.”
After tasting postseason success last year, the Rams will attempt to build on those results and become a force in the A-10. “I feel that we should be able to compete at the top of the conference,” said Leighton.