Spring Preview: Baseball

By Jack McLoone

Mark Donadio and his defense will be one of the key factors in the Ram's 2017 success. (Andrea Garcia / The Fordham Ram)

Mark Donadio and his defense will be one of the key factors in the Ram’s 2017 success. (Andrea Garcia / The Fordham Ram)

Fordham Baseball is going to have to replace a lot of talent in 2017. Whether it is to graduation or the MLB Draft, the Rams lost six vital pieces of the 2016 team that went 29-29 (14-10 in Atlantic 10 play) and won one game in the A-10 Championships.

The caliber of talent Fordham lost off the mound is made clear by the fact that both players were drafted. Joe Serrapica was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 24th round, though he was set to graduate after last season anyway. Greg Weissert, however, was expected to be back as a senior this season, but was drafted by the Yankees in the 18th round.

“There’s no question that losing Greg and Joe last year to the MLB Draft is a challenge but it is something that we have dealt with before, and I am confident we will have guys step up this year,” said head coach Kevin Leighton.

The Rams’ staff had a 4.36 ERA, good for fourth in the A-10, and were second in the conference with 408 strikeouts, though 174 of those strikeouts came from Serrapica and Weissert. No other pitcher for the Rams had over 47. The 2017 Rams’ staff will have its work cut out trying to replace two of its most dominant arms.

“[Graduate student] Jimmy Murphy and [sophomore] Reiss Knehr will definitely be key guys to the staff this year,” said Leighton. Also expected to carry over from last year’s staff are senior Kirk Haynes, Jr., who tied a school record with 30 consecutive scoreless innings last season, and junior Ben Greenberg, who was second on the team with a 2.83 ERA.

“We also have eight freshman pitchers that will be counted on this year to throw for us,” said Leighton.

The Rams also hemorrhaged talent to graduation in the field and lineup. Chief among the players who graduated is outfielder Ryan McNally, who led the team in runs (40), home runs (11), RBI (38) and slugging percentage (.502). Additionally, Joey Runco and Joseph DeVito were stalwarts up the middle for Fordham, appearing in 218 games (a school record) and 175 games, respectively. Versatile bat Ian Edmiston graduated as well.

Despite losing so much talent, Leighton is still optimistic. “Losing guys that have played a lot of games over the course of their career is tough to replace, but I have seen signs from this group that we can be a better offensive team than a year ago,” said Leighton.

There is definitely room for improvement offensively. The Rams hit .256 in 2016, which put them at 232nd out of 256 Division I baseball programs, their .334 on-base percentage at 256th, their .361 slugging percentage at 209th.

Leighton singled out senior outfielder and designated hitter Ryan Mahoney as a player who could break out this season. In 2016, he hit .253 and had seven multi-hit games over his 42 games played.

Leighton is also expecting big things out of freshmen Alvin Melendez and Matt Tarabek. Melendez was the second-ranked prospect on Long Island by Blue Chip Prospects, and can play in both the infield and outfield. Tarabek is an infielder from Pennsylvania who was a three-time Under Armour Preseason All-American and was named All-Section twice.

The Rams’ season gets underway on Feb. 17 when they travel to Houston to take on Houston Baptist. Their first home contest will be the annual Battle of the Bronx against Manhattan in a double-header on March 8.

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