Seton Hall baseball set to start season

Returning six starters and two-thirds of their starting rotation, the Seton Hall baseball team is ready for the start of the 2012 season.

“Because they had a taste of the (NCAA) Regionals and realize how hard work pays off, they are working a lot harder to get where we were last year and beyond,” head coach Rob Sheppard said.

The Pirates finished the 2011 season with a record of 34-20, after winning the Big East Tournament and earning a trip to the NCAA Regionals, where the Hall went 1-2.

However, with nine conference games remaining on the Pirates’ schedule, there was no guarentee that they would make the eight team Big East Tournament.

Starting off with a weekend sweep of Louisville, the Pirates won seven of their final nine conference games to make the conference tournament as a No. 5 seed, 1 game ahead of ninth placed South Florida.

In the Big East Tournament, the team extended its winning streak to eight straight with two wins over top seeded Connecticut and a 4-2 victory over St. John’s in the championship game.

The season ended with the Hall losing two straight games, to Texas A&M and Arizona, in the NCAA Regionals after starting the round with a win over Arizona.

Coming into this season, the team lost four starters to graduation, including Joe DiRocco, who was named Most Outstanding Player of the Big East Tournament.

“It’s tough to replace those guys,” Sheppard said. “We have a number of guys on our roster that we are going to look to make up for our losses.”

Despite losing four starters, the Hall was picked to finish fifth in the Big East coaches’ preseason poll, with junior pitcher Jon Prosinski named to the preseason first team All-Big East.

“It is hard to say it is disrespectful, but we expected to be in the middle,” Prosinski said of the preseason ranking. “But deep down we think we are better than that.”

Prosinski returns to become the ace of the Pirates’ pitching staff after finishing last season with a 7-4 record and a 1.91 ERA, which led the Big East. He also pitched two complete games, including a shutout in the opening game of the NCAA Tournament.

“It’s exciting,” Prosinski said. “Since last year ended, I understood that to be my role. I am willing to take it over and lead the pitching staff like (DiRocco) did last year.”

Besides pitching, the Pirates also had the third best defense in the conference, according to fielding percentage.

“Most important thing is defense and pitching,” Sheppard said. “If you can play defense and pitch, you will have opportunities to win games, and we are looking to be a lot more balanced this year.”

The Hall will look to improve at the plate despite losing top hitter, Sean Gusrang to graduation.

Last season, Gusrang led the team with a .295 average and 34 RBIs. Returning to the lineup is lead-off hitter sophomore Zack Granite, who led the team with 47 runs scored while batting .290.

“Granite was the guy at the top of the order that really got us going especially in the Big East Tournament,” Sheppard said. “You have to have your lineup working as one; you can’t have nine individual hitters.”

Also returning is junior Mike Genovese, who hit .279 with 21 runs scored and 31 RBIs.

The Pirates’ first game is on Feb. 17 when they play Penn State in the first of four game in the Big East/Big Ten Challenge in Tampa, Fla.

“Our No.1 goal is to repeat as Big East Champions because it has never been done before at Seton Hall,” Prosinski said. “Beyond that, we got to the NCAA Regionals last year, and we would like to advance past that.”

Stephen Valenti can be reached at Stephen.valenti@student.shu.edu

Author: Staff Writer

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