By Michael Mullen
The sun is finally shining and the grass is relatively green now, so that means spring sports are in full force. Lacrosse is always a highly attended sport. Tennis can often be seen on the courts and softball game days are easy to spot because of all the cheering fans. But something is always left out every spring season.
One of the most overlooked Union sports teams is having an absolutely phenomenal season.
The Dutchmen baseball team is leading the Liberty League with 15 conference wins and only three losses. With only four Liberty League series left (two against Skidmore and two against Vassar), the team is looking to extend its league lead over rival RPI, which now stands at two games.
So how has the team been able to perform so well during this season, which has included a stretch where Union won 10 games straight? Captains Dave Peretti ‘14 and Dylan Katz-Wicks ‘13, as well as players Tyler Heck ‘13, Joe Bradlee ‘14, Quinn Rhoda ‘13, Jason Cohen ‘13 and Jamie Farber ‘16 were able to shed a little light.
Dave: The answer to this is pretty simple. Our inspiration is our teammate Justin Lloyd [‘16]. This winter he was diagnosed with cancer and we have since dedicated the season and all of our success to him. He is a kid who eats, sleeps and breathes baseball. Whenever we are in a tight spot in a game we think of him and leave it all out on the field.
Dylan: Our pitching staff has been unbelievable throughout the season, and our defense and offense have been able to stay solid and pick up the pieces when needed. We focus on each game as it comes, and try to win one inning at a time.
Tyler: Our pitching has been phenomenal this year and kept us in every game, and that combined with timely hitting has resulted in our success so far this season. And you can’t forget Justin Lloyd, he’s been the greatest motivation for us this year.
Joe: I think one of the reasons why we’ve had such a solid one month stretch is because our pitching has been lights out, and it has definitely put less pressure on our offense to put up large amounts of runs.
Quinn: Since Florida, our pitching staff has been top 10 nationally in the country and we have been able to combine that with timely hitting throughout our season, which has enabled us to continue to stay in first place since week one.
Jason: This team has a sense of camaraderie that I have never seen before. Each member has each others’ back and the team dynamic is incomparable. We all push each other day after day in the weight room and on the field. I am pretty sure we have created more noise on the bench than any team before us. Nobody wants to mess with a bunch of psychos.
Jamie: I would say that our success comes from our team chemistry, we have a great group of guys on the team and everyone plays their part.
When asked about the team’s goals coming into the season, it was made clear that the team is well on its way to surpassing even its own predictions.
Dylan: The goal for our team from the beginning has been to make playoffs. In my previous three years at Union we have missed out on the Liberty Leagues, so we made our main goal to make it into the top four teams. Anything can happen in the playoffs, and we hope that the hard work we have put in will give us a good chance to win the league.
Dave: Our goal has been to win the league. In order to do that it all starts with team chemistry. This year we are truly a family. Everybody loves everybody and has faith in everyone. The greatest part about our team is that everyone on the team has some serious talent. Our pitching staff is one of the best in the nation and they certainly pitch like it week in and out. Our hitting is timely and abundant. Our defense has been spectacular with top 10 Sports Center caliber players from players like Dylan Katz-Wicks, Anders Goetz [‘15] and Sam Caruso [‘14]. Everything has come together at the right time. The seniors are ready to go out on top and I know they will be ready to play in the playoffs.
Tyler: Our goals for the rest of the season are to win the regular season and then win the Liberty League tournament.
Joe: Our goal for the rest of the way is to win the regular season and win the [Liberty League] tournament.
Quinn: As one of the seven remaining seniors of what once was a freshman incoming class of 16 what I want the most is a Liberty League Championship and to go out on top.
Jason: Easy, win the Liberty League regular season and playoffs.
Jamie: Our main goal is definitely to win the Liberty League, and then after that who knows what can happen.
The pitching staff has indeed been a huge factor in the team’s continued winning. Lead by Phil Kemp ‘13, Dane O’Neil ‘14, Seth Roberts ‘13 and newly named Liberty League Rookie of the Week Jamie Faber ‘16, the staff-earned run average is a mere 2.35, which is good enough to be second in the nation.
The Union bats are not slacking either with a team batting average over .300. Leaders Vincent Esposito ‘14 and Tyler Heck ‘13 are hitting .415 and .388, respectively. In a sport that is often considered 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical, it makes sense that staying focused on the little things would lead to such great success.
As for the next few games, Skidmore is still trying to sneak into the playoffs, and they are not going to be an easy task. With a 7-11 record and basically nothing to lose, the double-header will give the Dutchmen a great challenge and taste of the level of effort they can expect in Liberty League playoffs.
Vassar, with the same record as Skidmore, is also under the gun to win their next few games in order to clinch a playoff berth. They have a strong pitching staff, but if Union can keep up the strong offensive performance the series should go in the Dutchmen’s favor.
This team is en route to big things in the coming weeks. Their next home game is Sunday, April 28 against Skidmore. Unfortunately, since the home field is located off campus, the team does not receive nearly as much support from our campus community as it should.
If you have a chance to make your way over to Central Park, I suggest you go because this team is impressive. At the very least, keep an eye out for updates and continue to support our Dutchmen and Lloyd as they battle on and off the field.
Cohen adds his own thoughts by saying, “I’d like to encourage the Union student body to come out and support the Dutchmen as we look to secure our best season in a long time. I’d also like to thank everyone for their support not only on the diamond but for Justin Lloyd as he shows what it truly means to be a champion and a legend and fight cancer. Go U!”