The Fairfield University baseball team had arguably one of its best seasons in recent memory last season. The Stags went 39-5, carried on a winning streak which began the previous season that ended up being twenty-eight games, and went on a national tournament run before falling to the #2 ranked University of Texas at Austin Longhorns in the regional final.
Despite their success, the Stags only faced conference opponents in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) last season. The only opportunities they had when facing non-conference opponents was in their tournament run.
With COVID-19 restrictions beginning to slowly fade away, the Stags now have more opportunities to face non-conference teams as they travel down to Florida to face Florida Gulf Coast University in a three-game series before taking on Dartmouth College and Bradley University in the 2022 Russmatt Central Florida Invitational and North Dakota State in the Snowbird Baseball Classic.
Senior Mike Sansone is fired up about the chance to play with his team in a vastly different setting than in the Northeast.
“It’s nice to be in baseball weather in early March and I always look forward to those trips,” Sansone states. “Having that Florida trip is always one of my favorite trips. I got to do it once during my sophomore year, and so obviously with everything that has happened over the past two years it is nice to experience playing in a different setting.”
Teammate and sophomore Matt Bergevin agrees.
“I think in terms of the environment, we’re gonna be happy to be somewhere that is not 35 degrees, and on that note we’re really looking forward to doing that,” Bergevin says.
In addition, both players are looking forward to not only playing in a different environment, but also playing against unfamiliar teams with higher name recognition.
“It’s always fun to go down south and play some of those bigger name schools,” Sansone says. “I think with these other schools they have grown accustomed to seeing themselves play on TV in which we do not see ourselves doing very often. It’s a lot of fun and different going down there and playing those teams, but at the same time you have got to keep the same kind of mindset to want to go down and win games.”
“We’re very excited to face programs that have a higher name recognition than we do,” Bergevin points out. “You know, Florida Gulf Coast is obviously a very good program with really good players that have been out of there in recent years and Bradley has always done a great job with recruiting talent in the Midwest,” referring to Bradley’s location in Peoria, Ill.
“Obviously with Dartmouth being an Ivy-League school, they are always going to be competitive and a tough matchup to face,” Bergevin further explains. “Also North Dakota State won 40 games last year, won their conference and had at least a couple of guys drafted, so facing these programs is going to be challenging but a lot of fun for our team.”
Before traveling down to Florida and taking on these opponents, the Stags have one more three-game series to play against the Hawks of Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Pa.
Both players acknowledge that the series against the Hawks is the team’s primary focus right now.
“Right now, we have our focus on St. Joe’s,” says Sansone. “They are a very good ball club and are a team that we share a lot of similarities with. In order to win we need to do a good job playing a well-balanced ball game, with solid effort both offensively and defensively.”
“We’re really taking it one step at a time, and it’s really been all about St. Joe’s right now,” Bergevin explains. “I think we feel like we can really build off of the kind of groundwork we’ve laid, especially offensively. I think we’ve done a good job preparing ourselves to play the St. Joe’s of the world who are a good program and who can kind of be a preview of who we’re going to face when we come back from Florida.”
Both players seem excited for the journey that lies ahead for the team, taking on opponents in settings that they are not accustomed to. These experiences that the baseball team will partake in will prepare them for the adversity and challenges that they will face when they return home for regular season play and in the postseason in which they hope to make the Fairfield community proud of their Stags once again.