Fordham students have endured a chilly winter, but there are signs that spring is on its way. Days are getting longer, warm weather is fast approaching and, perhaps most importantly, the Fordham baseball team is back in action. Through the first weekend of the season, the team is 1-2.
The team will return to Houlihan Park on March 8 for its home opener against Manhattan College. After a second consecutive appearance in the Atlantic 10 Championship last year, it will look to build on that success.
“We are focused first on qualifying for the A-10 Tournament, and from there, our goal is to win the tournament,” said head coach Kevin Leighton, now in his fifth year at the helm of the NCAA’s all-time winningest baseball team. “The league is a grind, and every game is tremendously important. Last year, the difference between first place and seventh place was three wins.”
With so little margin for error, the Rams will need to be on their game this season. Fortunately for them, most of the members of last year’s team are returning for another season, so Leighton will have a more experienced roster at his disposal. Fordham lost three regulars from last year, including pitcher Brett Kennedy and catcher Charles Galiano, both of whom were selected in the MLB Draft. The former led the team in wins, strikeouts and innings pitched last season, while the latter hit nine home runs and batted .301.
The loss of those players leaves a hole in the roster, but Leighton is confident in his squad’s ability to pick up the slack. “Losing those two is definitely tough, but it’s one position player out of our lineup and one pitcher out of our rotation,” he said. “The guys have stepped up, and I have no doubt we will be able to overcome it. Every year you’re going to lose players to either graduation, the MLB draft or injury, and every year someone new will step up and fill the void.”
The focal point of the Rams’ offense will likely be their four starting infielders: junior first baseman Matthew Kozuch, senior second baseman Joseph Runco, senior third baseman Ian Edmiston and senior shortstop Joseph DeVito. Last season, Kozuch, Edmiston and DeVito batted over .300, with Kozuch’s clip of .333 leading the team. For his part, Runco led the team in both runs scored and steals.
Junior outfielders Mark Donadio, Jason Lundy and Ryan Mahoney, along with graduate student Ryan McNally, will also be important contributors. Donadio’s .376 on-base percentage placed second on the team last year, and he placed third in steals.
On the other side of the ball, junior Greg Weissert, sophomore Ben Greenberg and junior Kirk Haynes, Jr. should get the majority of starts for the Rams. Seniors Jimmy Murphy and Joseph Serrapica, along with sophomore David Manasek, will be among the most important relievers.
For Leighton, the key to his team’s success is not anything fancy. He just wants them to go out and get the job done. “We need to compete on the mound and go deep in games,” he said. “Our offense needs to find ways on base and be able to be the aggressor. Defensively, we need to make the routine plays.”
Fordham’s window could be closing faster than it might seem, with six seniors on the roster. The Rams hope their experience will see them through to the postseason — and perhaps beyond. A-10 play begins on April 1.
“We have a solid group that has done it before, so they know what it takes to get to where we want to go,” said Leighton. “We need to fight day in and day out, no matter who the opponent.”