A strong start is not unusual for Fairfield baseball. A strong finish is.

Last season the men’s baseball team started strong in Metro Atlantic Athletic (MAAC) play, posting an 8-4 record. But the Stags collapsed down the stretch, finishing the season on an eight-game losing streak and ending with an 11-13 conference record.

Fairfield missed the MAAC playoffs for the eighth consecutive season.

This year, the pitching staff that was Fairfield’s downfall at the end of last year is its strength. The Stags lead the MAAC with a 4.75 earned run average and while the offense has struggled as of late, the pitching has been quick to pick up the slack.

Juniors Rob Gariano and Kevin Fico, who have been in the Stags starting rotation since their freshman seasons, combined to shutout St. Peter’s in a doubleheader on Sunday.

Gariano started the series with a one-hit, 15 strikeout performance in Fairfield’s 3-0 win.

Fico followed that by allowing six hits and striking out five in the Stags 1-0 victory.

In his first two seasons at Fairfield, Gariano combined for an 8-12 record and a 4.41 ERA.

Fico posted a 1-12 record with a 6.51 ERA in his first two season. This year, Gariano has started 4-3 and has a 3.16 ERA. He leads the MAAC in strikeouts with 55 on the year and has struck out at least 10 batters in his past three seasons. Fico is 3-2 with a 3.29 ERA.

The bullpen has also been solid for the Stags, led by senior Dan Gallagher, who set the Fairfield career record for appearances with 57 and has a team-low 2.41 ERA. Junior Justin Servino has taken over the closer role of late and has a 3.18 ERA to go along with five saves.

Head coach Jeff Slosar said that the key to his pitching staffs turn-around is their experience.

‘With the addition of a couple new pitchers, along with an improved work ethic, the pitchers have been better,’ Slosar said. ‘With success has come confidence.’

Slosar added that Gariano has improved this season as well, as he has throughout his career.

‘It has been a steady progression,’ Slosar said. ‘This year he has improved his secondary pitches. With three pitches of that quality, he can be real good every time out.’

The Stags have seen important contributions from a trio of freshman, starter Sam Robertson (2-1,’ 3.78 in five starts), Ryan Furbeck (16 RBI as starting centerfielder) and Mark Skrapits (.340 batting average, 17 RBI).

‘They have been very important,’ Slosar said. ‘They are all ballplayers and are very talented.’

Tucker Nathans has continued to lead from the plate, with a team-high .381 batting average and 20 RBI.

‘We need to keep it going,’ Slosar said. ‘We need players to keep playing the way we can and not look too far ahead. I hate to use that cliche, but it is true. We can beat anybody on the schedule and lose to anybody. We just need to focus on today’s game.’

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