For the Red Hawk baseball team, the 2022 season marks a year with high ambitions and plenty to prove.
Head coach Dave Lorber has plenty of reasons to be confident this season with strong leadership from two of their star players: senior first base Peter Cosentino and junior pitcher Patrick Cuccurullo, who hope to bring a New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) title back to Red Hawk country for the first time since 2001.
Though individual success is great, it’s not a priority for this upcoming baseball team. Lorber’s baseball portfolio is impressive: as a player at Central Connecticut State University, he was part of their Division III World Series run in 2005. As a recruiter at George Washington University, he coached nine soon-to-be professional athletes.
With all his past triumphs, Lorber indicates how bringing a championship to Montclair State University would be at the top of his resume.
“It’s not just important for me, it’s for our alumni and everyone who has been involved in the program,” Lorber said. “[This is] to get back to the pinnacle of Division III baseball, to winning championships in the NJAC and competing in the regionals.”
Lorber emphasizes that to achieve those goals, a tradition has to be reestablished for Montclair State’s baseball team. In the coronavirus (COVID-19) shortened season in 2021, the Red Hawks finished 20-10.
After one of their best seasons in recent memory, Lorber has all the confidence in his players to reach their full potential after last season’s disappointing ending in the NJAC quarterfinals against Kean University.
During game three of the NJAC quarterfinals, at the top of the seventh inning, Kean ran away with the game, scoring eight of their 14 points while only giving up one point to Montclair State. This defeat however had no reason to faze the third-year head coach as it was the first time in six years that the team had been to the NJAC tournament.
“We didn’t have a player in that dugout that had experienced NJAC championship baseball,” Lorber said. “I give credit to our players for putting themselves in a game three, win or go home situation.”
Kean returns to Yogi Berra Stadium on April 28 in a game that may be pivotal in terms of how the season goes for Montclair State. Although every fan has that date circled on their calendars, Lorber and his group want to handle business with discipline for their first game on Feb. 19 against Swarthmore College.
Since it’s the start of the new season, expect the Red Hawks’ best player Cosentino to make his impact as soon as he’s on the field. He led Montclair State in nearly every batting statistic last season, including a 0.426 batting average, 49 hits, 10 home runs and 32 Runs Batted In (RBIs) in 2020.
Consentino looks to make Montclair State history this season, as he can become No. 1 all-time in career batting average, sitting at a 0.416 batting average, which is only behind Gary Banta (0.419, 1975) and tied with Joe Giacomiazzio (0.416, 2003). The senior infielder gives all the props to his coaches for developing his phenomenal batting style.
“It’s a nice honor to have, and thinking about it is awesome,” Cosentino said. “But, I [have to] attribute all that to coach Lorber and coach Pat Knight. Without them, that [batting] average isn’t possible.”
History-making was cut short last season, as Cosentino would have entered Montclair State’s top five all-time batting average for an individual season behind Ralph Yezza (1994) by .001%.
Though he didn’t come away with that record, Cosentino’s exhilarating ball skills named him to First Team All-NJAC last season with several other selections for the region. Though he acknowledges his success on the field claims these awards, Cosentino is thrilled to have his recognition be shared with his teammates and the future of this program for recruiters.
One of those teammates who looks to be part of that journey is Cuccurullo. After an electrifying season in which he led the team with 43 strikeouts, Cuccurullo aims to solidify himself as the starting pitcher the Red Hawks can rely on.
“I think I’ve proven myself last season, and that the guys on the team put [their] trust in me,” Cuccurullo says. “The better I do, the more the team succeeds.”
The Montclair State baseball team is approaching this season with the heart and dignity to win a championship. No amount of in-season accomplishments or rivalries can distract this team from reaching its goal, given the program’s rich tradition and desire to reach the pinnacle of Division III once again.