Now that the football hype has died down, sports fans are ready for a new season.
Baseball season is just around the corner and the SUNY New Paltz baseball team is set to hit the field in less than two weeks. The Hawks will open up with a doubleheader against Salisbury University in Maryland on Saturday, Feb. 25 at noon.
New Paltz is coming off a solid 2010-11 campaign, when they won 20 games, finishing the season at 20-19. They earned the fourth seed in the SUNYAC tournament, but fell short, losing to SUNY Cortland and the College at Brockport in the first round.
Despite the early exit, the Hawks head into this season with high expectations as they have improved over the past couple of seasons. Every starting position player from last year’s club is back this season, except for a new starting pitcher. The Hawks plan to use that experience and talent towards their goal of a SUNYAC title.
“As a team our expectations are to win every game we play,” said Jake Cameron, fourth-year infielder for the Hawks. “Ultimately we’re out to win a SUNYAC championship.”
Cameron transferred to New Paltz from Virginia Wesleyan prior to last season and added a huge punch to the Hawks lineup. He hit .315 to go along with his team-leading four home runs, 24 RBIs in the middle of the lineup. Cameron received All-SUNYAC First Team honors as a result of his effort, joining teammate Chris Chismar.
Chismar will anchor the starting rotation again this year, a year removed from winning the 2011 SUNYAC Don Axtell Pitcher of the Year. Chismar finished the season with a 6-4 record, 2.64 ERA, and 78 strikeouts. He also added four complete games.
“We are returning all of last year’s staff except one so obviously our expectations are high,” said Matt Griffiths, who is entering seventh season as head coach. “The pitching staff has been our backbone for the past couple years and I think that our staff as a unit this year will match up with anyone.”
Griffiths is undoubtedly excited for this upcoming season. Griffiths also added former New Paltz pitcher Zachary Potter to his coaching staff this season. Potter had an outstanding career toeing the rubber for the Hawks, pitching from 2007-08 and owns the majority of the New Paltz career and single-season pitching records. Potter will serve as the pitching and assistant coach.
“I see this as a great opportunity to work with highly-talented student athletes,” Potter said. “It’s the perfect time for this program to step up a level and work toward attaining our goal of winning a conference title.”
Between his recent success at New Paltz, and working with already experienced pitchers who have made contributions to the Hawks, it could make for a promising year. Heading into the season, the projected starting rotation will be made up of Chismar, Andrew Grann, James McKenna, Mike Pinolla, and John Schmidt, five contributors from last year.
Following the three-game series against Salisbury University to open the season, the Hawks will begin SUNYAC play when they face off against SUNY Purchase. The Hawks will then head to Florida, where they will take on teams from all over the country in the Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic.
“I’m excited to get down to Florida and play schools we normally wouldn’t,” said Cameron. “There is some real good competition out there and it definitely gets us ready for the meat of our schedule. You can really evaluate where you’re at as a team.”
The Hawks do not play a home game at the redone Loren Campbell Field until March 30, when they host The College at Brockport at 3 p.m.
With the season fast approaching, the Hawks are ready to play their type of baseball.
”We just want to focus on executing our brand of baseball the best we can every day,” said Griffiths. “The team this year is especially resilient, experienced, and talented so we just need to play the way we are capable.”