Last year, positions were not clearly established, resulting in players bouncing all over the field and lineup. The team featured just three seniors and had a lot of newcomers who saw significant playing time.

With an entire season of experience under their belts and more defined roles, the Stags should see a continuation of the improvement they saw at the tail end of last year.

“We started slow last year – maybe because of our youth and inexperience – but once roles were settled, we were one game over .500 in the second half and 5-2 in the MAAC,” said Head Coach John Slosar.

The team finished 18-28 overall (12-14 in the MAAC) last season.

While it took the Stags until the second half to really turn it on, their designated hitter Peter Allen ’08 was hot all year.

Allen’s junior campaign was one of the best in Fairfield history. He led the team in virtually every major offensive statistical category, hitting .380 with five home runs, 35 RBI, and a school-record of 23 doubles.

“Honestly, Pete is the backbone of our lineup,” said sophomore pitcher Rob Gariano.

Prior to this season, Allen was named to the First Team All-MAAC.

He was also named to the Brooks Wallace Player of the Year watch list, which is the equivalent of the Heisman trophy in football.

“All we need is the same Pete Allen,” said Slosar. “We don’t want him to put any unnecessary pressure on himself.”

The lineup

The Stags only hit .270 as a team last year, but expectations are much higher this season. The leadoff man for the Stags will once again be senior captain Albie DeSimone. DeSimone is a natural left-handed, slap-hitting leadoff man with speed and a great eye at the plate.

“I would say that Albie is poised for a big offensive year based on what he showed in the fall,” said Slosar.

The No. 3 hitter will be sophomore center fielder Jason Rago, who brings a combination of speed and power to the lineup and should see plenty of good pitches to hit this season because, when he’s at the plate, Allen will be looming in the on-deck circle.

“Rago is not just one of the best players on our team, but he’s one of the best players in the conference,” said Allen.

No. 5 hitter Mike Weiner ’08 was second on the team last season with a .347 average and 19 RBI.

Rounding out the power part of the lineup is senior right fielder Brian Rudolph. Rudolph has all the tools, both offensively and defensively.

Pitching staff

The pitching staff was good for third in the MAAC in terms of team ERA last season, but the ace of that staff is now gone.

Ed Kamintzky’s graduation makes Gariano the new No. 1 starter. He slides into the top spot mainly because of his great stuff.

“His slider is a special plus pitch,” said Slosar.

The other two weekend starters will be senior Ryan Calabrese, who led the team in innings pitched last year, and junior Doug Ciallella, who did a great job as a weekday starter and long reliever last season. These roles however are not set in stone.

Sophomore Kevin Fico, who has been called “the wild card” by Slosar, is also vying to get into the rotation.

“At any point this kid could take any one of our spots,” said Gariano. “His stuff is as good as anybody’s.”

The bullpen will be led by sophomore lefty Dan Urbanovich and junior closer Dan Gallagher.

“Dan and I complement each other very well. If I’m coming out and Dan is coming in, I know the job is going to get done,” said Gariano.

Hot start?

Last year was a learning process and a season for players to gain much-needed experience – and that experience has led to this preseason optimism.

“We need to learn from the past,” said Allen. “This is a totally different group of guys with regard to confidence.”

Slosar wants his team to “be aggressive and attack early”.

The Stags have struggled early. But despite their 2-12 record, the Stags did play some high-quality opponents such as Kentucky, Xavier and Central Michigan.

Slosar hopes playing against big schools like that will prepare his team for conference play.

The Stags were picked to finish fourth in the preseason coaches’ poll. The top four teams go to the MAAC tournament.

Although no one likes to make much of preseason predictions, senior captain Pat Hoban did not shy away.

“I’m not so sure I agree,” he said. “Looking at the other teams ahead of us, I think we can beat all of them in a series. In my mind, we are the team to beat,” Hoban said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.