By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The St. Joseph’s University baseball team has already enjoyed a record-breaking season and they’ll look to keep the good times rolling as they head into the post-season.
The Hawks are 33-14 and that win total has already shattered the program record. They went 18-8 in the Atlantic 10 during the regular season, and that earned them the #2 seed in the double-elimination conference tournament which gets underway tomorrow in St. Louis.
The Hawks will open with the #7-seed Fordham. Host squad St. Louis is the top seed. The winner of the A-10 earns an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
“This has been a great season and we’re hoping, obviously, that what has happened will prepare us to continue to play for some time,” Hawks head coach Fritz Hamburg tells KYW Newsradio.
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The Hawks are hitting .296 as a team with a nifty ERA of 3.54. But Hamburg says their success goes beyond the statistics:
“This is an older group of guys that has had quite a bit of experience and I think it’s just a collective decision on their part that they really wanted to put the team in front of everything else,” Hamburg says. “We’ve done a lot of team building and group exercises that I think have brought, not only the players together, but the players and coaches together as one. That’s really made this season very enjoyable.”
The Hawks won’t have any problems deciding who gets the ball early in the tournament as they are loaded at the top of the rotation with senior right-handers Danny Thorpe (9-1, 2.94 ERA) and Jordan Carter (10-3, 2.19 ERA).
“Danny and Jordan, having them on the first two games, both of them have been really, really solid all year,” Hamburg says.
If the Hawks get a lead late, they are in very good hands.
“Lansing (Veeder) and Steve Schuler have been great out of the pen, they’ve been rock solid almost every time out,” Hamburg says. “So it’s nice to have that and it has also given us a chance to get some of the younger guys some work where they can feel comfortable and not feel like they have to do too much.”
Veeder is a junior right-hander who has a 1.89 ERA with three saves in 25 appearances. Schuler is a senior left-hander who has gone 5-1 with 6 saves in 23 appearances with a 0.57 ERA.
Double-elimination conference tournaments are high pressure and grueling. It is a lot of tense baseball compacted into three-and-a-half days.
“I think early on, the pitching really rises to the forefront,” Hamburg says. “You need to get solid outings in the first two games to give yourself some length. If you lose early, it makes it really, really challenging, certainly to run deep into the tournament. But I think once you get to the back end of the tournament, where everybody’s pitching is somewhat exhausted, that’s where the hitting really jumps out. That’s where I feel confident in our group because we’ve been hitting all year and we can continue to do that and balance our pitching, because we’re not real deep in the starting role and we may do some unconventional things to get us to where we need to be. But if we can just hold it together on the mound, I think our offense will continue to carry us.”
Six starters are hitting above .300. Outfielder Collin Forgey paces the potent attack with a .368 average. Infielder Stefan Kancylarz is hitting at a .354 clip. Catcher Brian O’Keefe has a team high seven home runs (to go along with a .343 average) and he and Forgey lead the team in RBI with 41.
St. Joe’s and Fordham are slated to get underway at 2:30pm (ET) tomorrow. The winner advances to play the winner of George Mason and Dayton on Thursday. The loser actually has to turn around and play again Wednesday night, facing elimination.
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