Nearly a year has passed since the Montclair State University baseball team’s season was canceled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Although the past year has been filled with unfortunate circumstances and uncertainty, second-year head coach Dave Lorber believes the adversity has brought his team closer.
“The guys have responded fantastic and haven’t missed a beat,” Lorber said. “They all realize this is something completely out of their control. Our family mentality and our togetherness as a group has helped us get through it. We’re excited about what’s ahead and hopefully playing games.”
Last season the Red Hawks started off at 8-4, which included a two-game sweep of SUNY Cortland, who were ranked 25th in the country, and five straight wins before the remainder of their season was canceled. The team was coming together well and just starting to unlock some of their potential as a group.
While it hurts to lose a season due to circumstances beyond their control, the team rests confidently knowing that better things are coming.
“Last year was the first block put in place of how we should play, what our expectations are and how good we can be when we put it all together,” Lorber said. We’ve got a lot of those pieces back and we’re excited to continue that forward momentum.”
Those pieces include a few players who are looking to build on their great starts from last year. Senior infielder Hayden Reyes batted a team best .474 along with 10 runs scored and 10 RBIs in just 11 games.
Senior infielder Joe Norton and junior first baseman Peter Cosentino also posted strong numbers. Norton batted .320 with right RBIs and Cosentino hit .349 along with a .455 on-base percentage. The lineup will also be looking for production from players like senior catcher Anthony Guarino and freshman outfielder Mike Murphy.
Their pitching staff will lean on the experience of fifth-year seniors Brian Reiss and Sean Lewandoski along with sophomores Ben Levine and Patrick Cuccurullo, who have some experience as freshmen last season. The bullpen will also feature senior Justin Silva and junior Alec Benzinger.
The Red Hawks are also looking to build on their brand of exciting, pressure-filled baseball that Lorber brought with him in his first season at Montclair State.
“At the end of the day baserunning is offense,” Lorber said. “Everyone wants to talk about hitting, but there’s more than just hitting. You need to find ways to score runs and baserunning is one of them. We want to have a relentless approach to causing mayhem and pressure. It’s definitely a big part of what we want to be.”
The players have bought into Lorber’s coaching style, including Cosentino.
“Coach Lorber really put into our heads the proper mindset we need in order to win games,” Cosentino said. “Everything he shows us, he always explains why we’re doing it and why it works. When we execute the things he talks about, it leads to us winning games.”
The Red Hawks will need to be sharp throughout the season if they want to reach their goal of being at the top of the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC). The conference is filled with talent from top to bottom with no easy victories on the schedule. Every game is against a quality opponent with coaches who will have their teams well prepared.
Lorber spoke about the team’s expectations heading into the upcoming season.
“Our expectation is we only worry about ourselves and how we prepare,” Lorber said. “If we play our best brand of baseball it doesn’t matter who you put up against us. When we execute and do what we need to do most of the time you usually win. We want to get ourselves back in the NJAC tournament and once you’re there anything can happen.”
After a year full of unfortunate circumstances, it is clear that the baseball team is excited and grateful for this upcoming season. For some of these players, it is the longest stretch they have ever gone without playing baseball and they are looking forward to getting back in the swing of things.
Cosentino spoke about how he feels to be back with his teammates.
“Just going to the field, seeing the guys and all the coaches has been amazing, Cosentino said. “I love just even being able to go outside and be around people. I can’t wait for us to get started.”