By: Jim Fenton
Posted Feb 18, 2019 at 5:06 PM
EASTON – The Stonehill College baseball team is headed to South Carolina this week to begin its season with five games in four days.
The Skyhawks will take part in the Ripken Experience Northeast Challenge in Myrtle Beach, opening on Thursday at 6 p.m. against Mercy College of Dobbs Ferry, New York.
After just missing the Northeast-10 Conference tournament the past two years, Stonehill is eager to get its season going. The Skyhawks will also be traveling to Florida to play 11 games in Boca Raton and Palm Beach March 2-10.
"It's great,″ said coach Patrick Boen, now in his 22nd season. "We've been practicing inside for five weeks and the energy, the enthusiasm and the leadership have been tremendous. I think we have a great bunch of guys who really can't wait to make the playoffs this year.″
Stonehill went 17-21-1 a year ago, including 10-15-1 in the NE-10. The tie cost the Skyhawks the final berth in the playoffs, and a year before that, Stonehill missed the postseason by one game.
"Two years in a row, we were close,″ said Boen. "I feel like they really know as returning guys that one run can be the difference of making the playoffs. We've put an emphasis on the little things this season.″
The top returning players are first baseman Harrison Sabo and shortstop Matt Rocco, who both made the All-NE-10 third team.
Sabo, the leadoff batter, hit .327 with 11 doubles and four other extra-base hits to go with 36 RBI while Rocco had 46 hits, including 13 doubles.
"I think in terms of returning position players, we're in good shape,″ said Boen. "We've got a lot of juniors and seniors who had significant playing time last year. There's some veteran guys in there, guys who have already played at this level.″
The pitching staff will be led by fifth-year senior Michael Young, who missed the 2017 season due to Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery and appeared in five games last season.
Young, who spent some time with Cotuit in the Cape Cod League last summer, is 10-9 with a 2.34 earned-run average and 133 strikeouts in 31 games for Stonehill.
"He's healthy,″ said Boen of Young, who'll pitch the opener in South Carolina. "He had a year and a half off with Tommy John surgery and we're expecting big things from him this year. He does look great. He'll be our ace.″
Junior Mike White was 2-3 in 10 starts last season while lefthander Jared Brooks returns after making the NE-10 all-rookie team. Brooks was 5-3 with a 3.17 ERA in 12 games as a freshman.
"Those three can compete against any pitchers in the league,″ said Boen, who will be coaching his 1,000th game at Stonehill in April. "I think we're a team that's going to really battle on offense. I don't think we'll put up huge numbers. We'll grind out at-bats. I think we're going to cut down our strikeouts and put the ball in play and utilize small ball.
"Hopefully our pitching and defense will keep us in ballgames.″
Stonehill's home opener is scheduled for April 2 against Bentley University.
Boen's coaching staff this season includes former Stonehill head coach Lou Colletti, who most recently was an assistant coach at Bridgewater State University under Rick Smith. Colletti was Boen's coach at Stonehill during the 1980s.
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