Over the last few years, Seton Hall has developed a reputation of having stellar pitchers. In 2017, three members of the Pirate pitching staff were selected in the MLB draft in Chris Morris, Zach Schellenger and Shane McCarthy, with McCarthy electing to stay for one more year. Each of them are different but had one thing in common: their catcher, Mike Alescio.
Alescio, a senior, has held the starting catcher role for three seasons and has grown into one of the Pirates’ key contributors and a clubhouse leader.
“Mike is a really hard working player,” coach Rob Sheppard said. “He’s responsible and a leader which is what we need at that position [catcher]. We need someone willing to get dirty and lead by example and he does that better than anyone.”
This season, Alescio’s leadership has been crucial in helping the Pirates get off to an 8-1 start in the Big East, despite injuries and some early season struggles from the pitching staff. With junior ace Cullen Dana out and fellow senior Shane McCarthy having a down season by his standards, it has been up to Alescio to help manage the staff and navigate the schedule.
“We have a great pitching staff but part of our philosophy is that if we have a great core of catchers that it makes our pitchers that much better and Mike has been a huge part of that,” Sheppard said.
Turning himself into the reliable backstop took a fair share of work and repetition over the past three years, but Alescio credits his former Pirate teammates for guiding him as a freshman and helping him improve as a catcher.
“Freshman year I had a great role model to follow after in Tyler Boyd,” Alescio said. “I roomed with him on the road when he was a senior and I learned a lot from him about routine and what it really takes to play college baseball.
“I ran with that and kept working hard, working on my hitting and catching and trying to get the team better. All of that has culminated into a successful experience for me.”
After Boyd’s departure, Alescio won the starting catcher role as a sophomore, showing his potential from the start with a .310 batting average. The next year he hit .298, but managed to improve his fielding percentage from .967 to .982, showcasing his development behind the plate.
As a senior, he is hitting .288, but his on-base percentage has risen to a career-high .393, while his fielding has been top-notch once again. Sheppard called Alescio an integral leader in the clubhouse and a major reason why the team is rolling on all cylinders.
“Mike has done a tremendous job and has had a great senior year so far both as a hitter and catcher and he still has some of his best baseball ahead of him,” Sheppard said.
After graduation, Sheppard believes Alescio could have a future at the next level if he gets the opportunity. Even if this season is the end of his baseball career, Alescio has set himself up for success in the real world. Last year, he was named Seton Hall’s Junior Male Scholar Athlete, and has already lined up a job that pertains to his IT major and econ minor in the case baseball does not work out.
“He’ll be successful in anything he does, I’m pretty sure he already has a job lined up,” Sheppard said. “But I’m pretty sure he has a future in baseball, that’s my opinion. I think he’ll have the opportunity to play beyond college but he has the mindset and work ethic to be successful in whatever he does.”
Before that, his goal is to win a Big East Championship and advance to the NCAA Tournament.
“The rest of the seniors and I have never experienced a Big East Championship, a [NCAA Tournament] regional or super regional,” Alescio said. “So we all want to get there and right now we are on a good track to get there.”
Andrew Lombardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @lombardo_andrew.