In winning two out of three games over the weekend against Niagara, the baseball team is positioning itself for a run at the MAAC conference tournament with seven veteran seniors leading the way.

Senior Matt Ciardelli had four hits in eight at-bats in the doubleheader Saturday, while classmate Ryan Bittner hit a two-run homerun during the Stags rally to win the second game. Then on Monday seniors Jon Novalis, Sean Toolan, Sean Easton and freshman Greg Batista all hit homeruns in a 21-7 win in the series finale.

Bittner has also just recently passed Mike Pike and moved into first place for all-time hits in a career. He came to Fairfield and as a freshman immediately made the starting lineup at first base. During his four years here, Bittner has not only played in every game, but he has also started every game as well. That adds up to a remarkable 177 consecutive games played without absence and other then minor aches and pains, Bittner has never had a major injury.

Just nine games remain left on the schedule after Tuesday’s final non-conference game against Hofstra. That means that all nine games are conference match ups and every one is crucial with the team currently being in fifth place and needing to make it into the top four in order to make the conference tournament.

“We need to win every series from here on out,” said Bittner.

Bittner is optimistic about the Stags’ chances the rest of this season and as he moves on he would like to continue playing baseball somewhere. He credits his dad as being the biggest influence in his life but chose to play first base because of Yankees’ first baseman Don Mattingly.

Coach John Slosar said about Bittner, “His numbers show that he’s been one of the top hitters in school history.” As a freshman his average was just .280 but he progressed dramatically in his sophomore season hitting .371 and a career high 65 hits. His junior season was the same story; his average was .364 and he had 63 hits, and as a senior he started the season slowly but has really turned it on as of late. He leads the team in hits with 47 and is at the top of virtually every offensive category.

A weakness of Bittner’s had been his strikeout numbers but he has struck out less every year since his rookie year and this year that number has dropped dramatically. “Strikeouts were a problem earlier in my career and I have tried to cut down on them and it’s something I’m very happy with,” Bittner said.

He also gave light to his pursuit of the record. “I didn’t think about it [the record] until I got close, I think when I needed six hits, and then my teammates and everyone else started bringing it up.”

“He’s a team player and a great hitter and we all knew he was going to get the record,” said freshman teammate Batista.

Pike set the career record for hits in 1996 with 209, and in a game against Siena, Bittner passed Pike and became the new record holder. ” They’re both two equal players and very talented hitters,” Slosar said.

Bittner is currently closing in on another of Pike’s career records for doubles in a career. Pike holds the record with 58 doubles and Bittner has 52.

The Stags, currently 16-25 overall and 8-10 in the MAAC, will face Saint Peter’s College this weekend at Alumni Diamond with a Saturday afternoon doubleheader starting at 12 p.m.

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