Underclassmen Step Up to the Plate

Jimmy Fisher, Reporter

With multiple MAC and Freedom Conference titles throughout the past few seasons, the baseball team has never lacked talent or the will to win, but this season it is missing something it hasn’t missed in years: a veteran roster.

After losing 14 seniors to May graduation, the baseball team is left with a roster consisting of nearly all sophomores and freshmen with the exception of five seniors: Ryan Cacchioli, Shane McGraw, Julian Faria, Joe Tagliarini and Bryce Frankenfield.

There are no juniors on the roster, barring the arrival of transfer students when the winter semester rolls around.

Head coach Pete Egbert said he once had a team with five seniors or less, but he never had a small group of seniors with no juniors to back them up.

“Typically what happens, not only in our program, but I think in all the athletic programs across the board, even in Division III, is you end up getting more fresh- men and sophomores and then as they go through their four years, other things come up and being a student athlete becomes more challenging, so they decide not to continue playing for four years,” said Egbert. “Typically, if you bring in a class of 10 freshmen, not all 10 freshmen are going to make it to their senior year.”

The average age of a player this season is between 18 and 19 years old, and some fans might be writing them off because of their youth, but Coach Egbert says he is hopeful about the young talent.

“It’s exciting to have the youth,” says Egbert. “From a coaching standpoint, we like to work with our guys for the four years. We’re really, really excited about the freshmen class we brought in. We think they’re pretty talented. The sophomore class that we have is very talented; they proved that on the field last year. When they get to the college level, I treat them all the same. Freshmen, sophomore, junior, senior it really doesn’t matter to me.”

There are some experienced players to whom Egbert is turning to for leadership and guidance for the incoming players.

Egbert commends his senior group for being terrific leaders.

“Our senior leadership is strong, and our sophomore leadership is better than I’ve ever had from a young group,” he said. “We have some really, really good sophomore leaders, so again, to me it doesn’t necessarily matter to me that they’re not junior or seniors. They’ve been around it before so they know what my expectations are, and I’ve talked to them already about having to lead our freshmen, and I have every confidence in the world that they can do it.”

Kyle Lindsay is one of the sophomores who has taken a leadership role.

“It’s definitely different. I didn’t expect it,” said Lindsay. “Coming in as a freshman, you don’t necessarily expect to take a leadership role, but as you play more games and as the season rolls along you kind of see how things are going, and you realize your roles are changing as the season rolls on.”

Lindsay knows that the sophomore group can do terrific things, but he did not take away from the seniors on the team and leadership examples they are preaching.

“We do have some really solid senior leadership,” said Lindsay. “Even last year Ryan Cacchioli and Joe Tagliarini, they were everyday starters, too, and they were always there for me when I needed someone to talk to, and they led by example as well.”

Senior Joe Tagliarini noticed that over the past few seasons he hasn’t needed to be much of a leader because there was a skilled group of guys ahead of him. But with such a younger group coming to the field, he knows he and Cacchioli will have to step up.

“Me and [Cacchioli] have been there now,” said Tagliarini. “We’ve spent the past three years together so it’s really gonna fall on us, too. Also Julian Faria, he was a transfer student last year, and he really helped us out big time. He’s also a senior and has a lot of knowledge for the game, and he’s going to fill a big role in leadership as well.”

Egbert and his players agree that the fall season will be a test.

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