Pitching For A Third

Concordia Stingers Baseball Team Look for Conference Three-peat

Catcher Dario Vincelli nails a hit, rocking the new jersey on Sunday Oct. 4, 2015. Photo Nikolas Litzenberger
Pitcher Jonathan Raftus throws a fast one on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015. Photo Nikolas Litzenberger
The Stingers are looking to three-peat as provincial champions. Photo Nikolas Litzenberger

As the season winds down for the Stingers baseball team, the last pitch of every game brings them one step closer to the playoffs, and one step closer to a chance at a third consecutive Canadian Collegiate Baseball Association Northern Division championship.

After defeating the Carleton Ravens in a two-game sweep of a best-of-three series in 2013, the Stingers defeated the McGill Redmen in 2014, despite their rivals forcing a third and final game of their playoff series.

This year, with new uniforms and many new faces, the task at hand will be difficult, but not out of reach.

“We lost seven starters to graduation last year, three of which were starting pitchers, and it’s been tough to replace them,” said manager Howie Schwartz. “I think our depth has changed on the mound and that’s my biggest worry going into the playoffs.”

With the likes of Brian Berkovits, Andre Lagarde, and Alex Kechayan gone from the pitching staff, Schwartz has scrambled to find replacements, but has had some success.

“Vito Pagliuca, even though he’s a rookie with us, has been around the game for a while,” Schwartz said. “He’s a great ball player too and he’s been playing a little bit of center field and outfield for us and he’s also pitched very well twice.”

Along with Pagliuca, the additions of Sam Blondeau and Shane Mullen have strengthened the Stingers pitching. Offensively, Stefan Brady has been a solid pickup for Schwartz, and the manager has been pleased with his rookie’s play.

“I don’t remember ever having a rookie play in the cleanup position for me,” he said. “He’s doing a great job hitting the ball, and he’s a great kid who’s very easy to coach.”

Even with all of the newcomers on the roster, veteran Stinger Anthony Marandola believes that this year will be no different than the last two.

“There’s no reason we should not finish in first place,” he said. “We’re going to work hard to do it, and I can see us taking a championship home.”

Marandola explained he believes that as long as the Stingers stick together and work as a team, they can be better than anybody in their conference playing what he believes is a different kind of baseball than in the past.

“In years past we could rely on big hits and quality pitching,” he said. “This year, it’s more scrappy and we’ve got to make things happen on the field.”

Although Marandola exudes this confidence, there are certain teams to be cautious around according to Schwartz.

“McGill and Université de Montréal are up there in the division, and Carleton can’t be shut out of the equation either,” Schwartz said. “Honestly, it’s going to be tough.”

Since winning the conference finals against McGill last year, the Stingers have been unable to defeat their long-time rival. Three of Concordia’s four losses on the season have come at the expense of McGill.

In addition, since falling to Redmen 6-1 in the final game of the CCBA National Championship last season, the Stingers have been outscored 18-3 in the first three games the two teams have played this season.

This past Monday, the Stingers bounced back against the Redmen, winning 8-7 in extra innings.

“With McGill, it’s never a done deal until the end of the game,” Schwartz said. “They’re a good enough a team that if we don’t play our best, we’re going to lose and that’s even more so this year than in previous years.”

Of the 25 runs that McGill has scored against the Stingers this year, Robert Zapata believes over half of them were unearned runs that stemmed from fielding errors or mental errors.

“Yeah [McGill] beat us three times, but all those three times we didn’t show up,” Zapata explained. “We weren’t cheering each other up, we weren’t [being] smart at [bat], and we were playing very poor defence.

“They don’t show us anything out of the ordinary. They just put the ball in play and make the plays on defense, and if we’re able to do the same thing, the game can go either way,” he added.

Both Marandola and Zapata agree that the atmosphere on the bench and in the clubhouse is one that will allow the team to work together and earn a championship.

“The ambiance is really good,” Zapata said. “If there’s anything that’s going to help us it’s this optimistic attitude of not bringing each other down.”

If the Stingers do three-peat, it will be because of teamwork and hard work, not individual performances.