Making the jump from high school to college baseball is no easy task. With a grueling practice and workout schedule, the always tricky balance between academics and athletics, and travel that no youth level experience can emulate, many freshmen struggle right off the bat.
For a handful of Seton Hall’s newcomers, that has not been the case.
With 13 freshmen on the roster and a handful of spots up for grabs, coach Rob Sheppard has not been afraid to expose his young players to top competition early in the season. Seven of the 13 have seen the field in Seton Hall’s first five games, with one playing a major role in the middle of the infield and another making a start on the mound this past weekend against Dayton.
Alex Clyde has taken over as Seton Hall’s starting shortstop and has not been fazed by the challenge of filling Al Molina’s shoes. In four games, all of which he has started, Clyde is hitting .385 with a triple and three RBI’s. He has also flashed some promise with his glove, recording six putouts and 11 assists with a flawless fielding percentage in the early going. Fellow middle infielder Steve Grober has also appeared in three of Seton Hall’s first five games.
“Alex Clyde and Steve Grober are going to be in the mix all season,” Sheppard said. “They’re guys we feel mix into that middle of the field defensively. They’ll find themselves in the lineup.”
While Clyde and Grober have gotten their feet wet on the infield, Seton Hall’s freshmen pitchers have come out of the gates firing on all cylinders as well. Brennan O’Neill, Nick Payero, Mark Diaz, David Festa and Cole Patten have all made at least one appearance so far and each one has held their own. Festa has fired four innings of scoreless work, while Payero has yet to allow a hit in three innings of action. Patten has taken the biggest step of the group so far, as he has already factored into Seton Hall’s weekend rotation with a start against Dayton on Feb. 23.
“There’s a lot of freshmen pitchers, there’s like eight,” said junior ace Ricky DeVito. “It’s really heavy with freshmen, but I think they’ve matured a lot because we’ve gotten along very well as a team. They’ve gotten a good feel of what it is to be here and the process of everything. I think they’re going to be very good stepping into their roles.”
Seton Hall’s freshmen class have not only impressed on the field, but off it as well. Their transition from high school to the college ranks has been surprisingly smooth, as the group has settled on a balance between hitting the books and mastering their craft on the diamond.
“They understand the importance of working hard on and off the field in the classroom,” Sheppard said.
Moving forward, Seton Hall’s freshmen class will be a key part of helping the Pirates dig out of an 0-5 start to the season. The group of 13 certainly has the talent to get the job done, but they will have to survive the rigors of a full season of action in order to do so.
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.