After playing their junior seasons away from home due to the construction of Mike Sheppard, Sr. Stadium at Owen T. Carroll Field, the Seton Hall baseball team’s seniors had the 2020 season vanish into thin air due to COVID-19.
The Pirates started the 2020 season with 13 games on the road, going 5-8 over that stretch. Then, on March 11, the first day without in-person classes for Seton Hall students, the field was christened with a 13-3 win over Fairleigh Dickinson.
When finals end in May, Tyler Shedler-McAvoy, Corey Sawyer, Noah Thompson, Matt Toke and Connor Hood will all be at the end of their collegiate careers. With the new NCAA ruling in place, however, there is no knowing yet if any of the five will return for a post-graduation season.
Heading into 2020, the quintet was poised to help the Pirates have a successful season, potentially even vying for a Big East championship. As two infielders, two pitchers and an outfielder, the group was spread out all across the field to give Seton Hall depth. In the early stages of the campaign, it was clear that this was a benefit to Rob Sheppard’s squad.
Starting from the back and working out, Shedler-McAvoy was one of the conference’s elite players over his first three seasons as a Pirate. After batting .324 with 37 RBIs in 2019, he was selected to the All-Big East First Team. In that season, he also led the conference in stolen bases with 22.
Shedler-McAvoy’s progression, which was bound to be amplified in the 2020 season, was nothing short of spectacular. After playing in 21 games as a freshman, he skyrocketed up to 38 as a sophomore, all of which were starts. His speed and consistency made him a constant threat both offensively and defensively over his time in blue and white.
Hood also rose up the ladder significantly in his time as Pirate. Going from 25 games as a third baseman in 2017, to 39 games at second base in 2018, to starting 52 games at second base in 2019, Hood made his mark.
He was able to increase his batting average from .159 in his first season to .235 in his most recent season. Although rarely flashy, Hood always got the job done on the diamond.
In the realm of consistency, fellow right-side infielder Toke exemplified it. Toke came in right away and started 39 games and made 50 total appearances in his freshman year, batting a team-high .321.
With his presence now known, Toke battled through a tough 2018 with only 23 games played – all starts – and a .299 average. He was named to the 2018 Big East Championship All-Tournament Team this time due to his postseason contributions.
Last season, Toke followed behind Shedler-McAvoy, being named to the All-Big East Second Team. That season, he batted .290 with four home runs. Just getting back to his normal routine, Toke was set to bring more offensive consistency to Seton Hall in 2020.
From the mound, the Pirates are potentially losing token starter Noah Thompson and sturdy reliever Corey Sawyer.
After being named Seton Hall Freshman Male Athlete of the Year, Thompson came into 2018 and made 16 appearances, walking away with a 3.51 ERA and 40 strikeouts. Then, in 2019 Thompson took off, making 13 starts and striking out 73 to earn a 4-3 record. He was also a part of the 2019 Big East All-Tournament Team.
Sawyer worked his way up the ranks over the years as a hard-throwing lefty. After recording one save in 2018, he moved up to four in 2019, good for fifth in the Big East. Sawyer was one of Sheppard’s go-to options to shut down opponents after his starter had left the mound and will be sorely missed if he decides to move on.
Kevin Kopf can be reached at email@example.com. Find him on Twitter @KevinKopfHWH.