Last season for Manhattan College, it was the third year in a row it failed to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title. The back-to-back championship teams of ’11 and ’12 are further and further away, especially now that only one player from the latter year remains.
What made ’14 sting more is the fact that it didn’t even qualify for the tournament.
“When you have a season where you don’t make the championship tournament, well, then you’re going to have to do some things differently to make some adjustments,” Jim Duffy, Manhattan head baseball coach, said. “And I’m happy with the adjustments that we’ve made, the progress, it’s just a matter of staying the course and continuing to get stronger and to stay healthy.
“We have much more of a chip on our shoulder this year than we’ve ever had before, and that’s a good thing,” Duffy said. “We’re not happy with the way things have gone here the last year or two. Not making the tournament last year was unacceptable not only to me but to our coaching staff and to the players that are here. … There’s been a little but less fun and games and it has been a very blue-collar, workman like mentality and effort. Really working towards success in the spring because that’s where this program needs to get back to.”
And adjustments were made. Aside from the yearly recruiting process, which brought in 11 new freshman, Duffy also hired three new coaches: Brian McCullough—pitching coach and recruiting coordinator—Kevin Flynn—catchers and hitting coach, as well as assistant with recruiting—and Giuseppe Papaccio—volunteer assistant coach.
From Duffy and the coaches to the players, when Manhattan opens up its season on Friday in Norfolk, Va., with three games against Old Dominion University; Delaware; and Virginia Tech. It knows come MAAC tournament time in May that it’ll be hosting again, but Duffy has always said it’s a matter of earning the team’s way in first.
The where side of the equation shouldn’t and doesn’t factor in. What he said is important to him and the team are consistency; health; and, most of all, certain players continuing to develop.
“It didn’t really have anything to do with the facility or the field itself, I think that’s the same for everybody,” Mike McRae, Canisius head baseball coach, said when asked about how much of a difference Dutchess Stadium made in his teams’ winning of the MAAC title. “Last year was just kind of a unique event, it wasn’t the best team we’ve had in the past few years. … It was a lot of similarities to that team in that tournament to [the ‘15] Kansas City Royals. It was a little bit of magic, making some breaks, taking advantage of miscues and a little bit of luck.”
“Guys are just getting older, so it’s only going to improve, which helps in a lot of ways,” Mike Scarinci, Manhattan senior pitcher, said about the now experienced freshman of last season. “It helps with the team overall and the freshman, as well, because they’re not slatted into these huge slots that they think they need to fill guys’ shoes to get to being brought in the game– they’re not thrown into the fire which is huge for their development. And by the end of the season everyone’s at the same level and ready to go.”