Christian Rodriguez, Assistant Sports Editor
The Utica College baseball team is coming off an even 18-18 season last year, just missing the Empire 8 tournament. Through the first 10 games of the season, they currently hold a record of 6-4.
Over spring break the Pioneers were out in Central Florida for the Russ Matt Invitational where they finished 4-4. Junior infielder Tim Quinlan is leading the way for the Pioneers with a batting average of .438 and a team high 11 RBI’s thus far.
Quinlan is coming off back-to-back all-conference seasons and is “excited for another shot at getting to that Empire 8 championship.” Quinlan is also happy with the core group that is returning to the roster.
“We got a group of guys returning that want to win,” Quinlan said. “We have all been putting in on our own before the season and continuing to do so now.
After coming up one game short of the tournament last season, Quinlan said he and the team uses it as motivation to drive them to success this season.
“I think it was what we needed,” he said.
The junior is confident in his team’s ability to hit the ball and said that they can do it “with the best teams in the league,” so their point of emphasis for the 2018 season is to make plays on the field and for the pitchers to just focus on throwing strikes.
“That’s how you make games close, and if we can keep them close we can win,” Quinlan said.
According to Quinlan, offensively the coaching staff has been working with the team on staying through the ball and reducing strikeouts. Defensively they have been stressing for “the outfielders to hit cutoffs and for our infielders to field the ball first before trying to make a throw.”
Quinlan stated that for him and the rest of the Pioneers, the overall goal is to “win E8s and get a spot in the NCAA tournament.”
“I don’t think anyone on the team is looking at anything less,” he said. “I expect big things from us this year.”
Assistant coach Christopher Podlucky has “high expectations” for this year’s Pioneers baseball team.
“We have a solid core group returning and a young pitching staff as well who will continue to learn and get better,” Podlucky said. “We are looking to build off of last year’s successes.”
Podlucky has also seen players from the junior varsity develop and feels they are ready to help contribute to the varsity team.
“They have been getting a ton of reps with their live at bats and the pitchers throwing more live innings against live batters, they should all have successful varsity careers,” he said.
Assistant coach Adam Pexton says going off of what the Pioneers had last year he is confident that they will build towards the goals set for the season.
“The players returning have got quality at-bats and quality innings pitched,” Pexton said. “Experience will only bring more positives to the roster.”
Assistant coach Bryce Patterson said after the Florida trip there were tons of positives to build off of as well as some negatives “just like any other team.”
“Now that we are back in the dome, we are working on our flaws and looking forward to excelling at those and having a great rest of the year,” Patterson said.
The UC baseball team will take the field this weekend as they open up Empire 8 play at Houghton College. Game times are scheduled for 5 p.m. on Friday and 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday.