By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It has already been a record-setting season for the St. Joseph’s Hawks.
A 7-4 victory over Rider on Tuesday was the 27th of the season for the Hawks, and that is a new program record. St. Joe’s currently enjoys a 27-10 record and their 13-4 conference mark has them sitting all alone in first place in the Atlantic 10.
“We have a veteran group,” St. Joe’s head coach Fritz Hamburg tells KYW Newsradio. “And the guys that are contributing quite a bit, with their experiences over the past three and some of them four years, it’s all kind of coming together. Not only from a baseball standpoint, but their relationships with each other as teammates, their trust in one another and those type of things. I think they recognize that we’ve set the bar pretty high and I think they’ve set the bar high. And the greatest thing about it is they are all enjoying doing what they’re doing, as are we as a coaching staff.”
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The Hawks previous school record for wins actually came last season, but even though they enjoyed some success, the season ended in disappointment. They lost their final five games, missing out on the A-10 Tournament. Hamburg talks about whether he thought this group was poised for this type of success coming into the season.
“The pieces were definitely there,” Hamburg says. “It was how, and more so if, they would come together. When you look at it, I think the biggest question mark was our pitching, losing Kyle Mullen to graduation last year as our Friday starter and with how successful we were as a team with him on the mound. Then returning (senior right-hander) Danny Thorpe and (senior right-hander) Jordan Carter, who were competitive (last season), but not nearly as good as what they’ve grown into this year. And I see the confidence when those guys are on the mound with our defense and there’s just no panic at all.”
Thorpe is 7-0 this season with a 2.04 ERA. In 66.1 innings of work, he has yet to allow a home run. Carter is 7-3 with a 2.57 ERA. He has walked just 9 batters in 66.2 innings. The Hawks also have not one, but two, absolute hammers at the back of the bullpen. Senior left-hander Steven Schuler is 5-0 in 16 appearances with four saves. In 24 innings this season, he has not allowed a run. Junior right-hander Lansing Veeder has three saves this season and in 22.2 innings of work, he has allowed just one run. Their combined ERA this season is an absurd 0.19.
The Hawks can also rake at the plate, hitting .295 as a squad and Hamburg says they are getting it done in true team fashion.
“These guys believe in each other,” Hamburg says. “And it has been interesting to see through the course of the season, different guys stepping up in different games. It’s by no way, shape or form the same guys doing it, day in and day out. We’ve got (seven) guys right now hitting over .300, but being really productive over .300. We’re scoring a lot of runs, which is obviously is the number one thing.”
Senior first baseman Mike Muha leads the offensive attack with a .371 average while graduate student outfielder Collin Forgey checks in at .361. Junior catcher Brian O’Keefe is hitting .346 and leads the team with 43 runs scored.
When you can pitch and you can hit, success usually follows as it has with this St. Joe’s team. They are in position to do some really special things, but Hamburg says they are just taking things one day at a time and controlling what they can control.
“We’re excited to play Richmond (at home on Friday),” Hamburg says. “And then we’ll be excited to play them (Saturday) and then Sunday. We don’t have any set goals, we’ve kind of moved away from that. Our goal is to go out there and kind of compete against our team’s pillars, so to speak. What we have defined as who we are and what we’re about. I think it has really taken the focus away from feeling like we have to do anything and really put it on the fact that we want to be the best teammate, the best player within our system, within our pillars. It’s kind of a different way of looking at it, but it’s working for us.”
Hard to argue with that.
You can follow Matt on twitter @mattleonkyw.