Before the conversation could be about baseball, before St. Joseph’s coach Richard Garrett would even entertain the notion of two familiar faces transferring into the heart of his lineup, this had to be about academics.
At Manhattan College, pitcher Nick Girardi was interested in accounting. At Farmingdale State, catcher Brendan Sullivan was passionate about teaching. Both products of St. Dominic High School were drawn to St. Joe’s, where their respective academic programs are excellent and their former high school coach leads the baseball team.
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“I wouldn’t discuss baseball with them until they would go and check out the academics,” said Garrett, who is entering his third year for the Golden Eagles after 18 years as the coach at St. Dominic.
Impressed by what they saw academically, Girardi and Sullivan said they were convinced St. Joseph’s was the right move. As juniors making their debut for the Golden Eagles last season, Girardi was the team’s No. 3 hitter, and Sullivan batted cleanup.
“Just like we were 16 again,” Sullivan said.
Finally, the discussions were about baseball. Sullivan, an all-conference first-team selection, had a .384 bating average in 112 at-bats with 25 RBIs and 19 runs for the Golden Eagles (20-17, 13-1 Skyline Conference), who finished atop the conference. Girardi hit .383 in 115 at-bats with 23 RBIs and 25 runs. He also posted a 2.70 ERA and a 2-1 record with 27 strikeouts in 16 2⁄3 innings, and was named the Skyline player of the year.
“It was especially great to win it while playing for coach Garrett and coach Paul Parsolano [who also coached at St. Dominic],” Girardi said.
Junior pitcher Josh Outsen, an all-conference first-team selection, led the staff with a 5-2 record and 1.32 ERA in 54 2⁄3 innings. The team’s starting nine, including senior third baseman Joseph Calabrese (first-team all-conference), senior outfielder Joseph Lynn (second team) and senior transfer James Nakashian, combined for an average above .300.
“Our lineup is probably the best I’ve ever played for,” Sullivan said.
As the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, St. Joseph’s lost to Old Westbury and Farmingdale as its pursuit of a title fell short. Now with 12 seniors, the Golden Eagles are poised to finish the job.
“We know we have a championship team,” Girardi said. “We just need to show it on the field.”
OLD WESTBURY (26-13, 10-4 Skyline Conference)
The sixth time was the charm for Old Westbury. After falling to Farmingdale in the previous five Skyline Conference title games, the Panthers won their first championship last year. Senior righty Jeremy Charles is tasked with replacing Tim Ingram, a 31st-round selection by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2015 Major League Baseball Draft. Charles posted a 2.76 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 91 1⁄3 innings at Hartford before transferring to Old Westbury.
FARMINGDALE (19-17, 8-6 Skyline Conference)
If Farmingdale, which had its eight-year championship streak halted last season, is to start a new streak this year, it will begin with senior first baseman Dalton McCarthy. The Rams’ most potent bat hit .292 with 21 RBIs last season. Sophomore righthander Ryan O’Connor, who went 6-1 last year with a 3.99 ERA, headlines a young pitching staff that is bolstered by Matt Seelinger (2-1, 4.66 ERA), Kevin Cashman (2-3, 2.37) and Christopher Reilly (2.49 ERA).
LIU POST (18-18, 14-10 East Coast Conference)
With junior pitchers Jake DeCarli (6-1, 0.76 ERA, 60 strikeouts) and Dan Jagiello (5-3, 3.75 ERA, 61 strikeouts) comprising a 1-2 punch atop the rotation, the Pioneers are poised to return to the ECC tournament, where they won their first tournament game since 2010 last year. Senior first baseman David Groeneveld (. 291 average) will anchor the lineup. Coach Mike Gaffney, in his second season leading Post, brings in his first full recruiting class, headlined by Joe Spitaleri (Division High School), James Varela (Division) and Jimmy Mendyk (Plainedge).
DOWLING (27-17, 15-9 ECC)
The Golden Lions were co-ECC regular-seasons champs a season ago and at the center of it was senior infielder RJ Going. The all-conference selection hit .284 with a .400 OBP and had 21 RBIs, 30 runs and 16 stolen bases. Senior infielder Tyler Piccolo, who hit .333 with 25 RBIs and 22 runs last year, stabilizes the middle of the lineup.
MOLLOY (22-23, 10-14 ECC)
Question marks surround a Molloy squad that graduated many of its top players after failing to reach the postseason last year, but there is no doubt in what the Lions have in Deilyn Guzman. The senior pitcher posted a 1.29 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 14 innings last year and figures to have a more prominent role in the back end of this year’s bullpen. He also hit .309 with 20 RBIs. Junior third baseman Kevin Podell (. 325, 22 RBIs) is a key returner as well.
ADELPHI (20-21, 11-11 Northeast-10)
As Adelphi seeks improvement upon its fourth-place finish in the Northeast-10 last year, it will look to its top returning weapons. Jonathon Mulford (7-1, 1.76 ERA, 50 strikeouts) heads the rotation, while junior first baseman Robert Vani (. 336 average, 23 RBIs, 29 runs) powers the lineup.
USMMA (13-19, 8-13 Landmark Conference)
In its final season in the Landmark Conference before moving to the Skyline Conference, USMMA will be led by a tandem of sophomores. First baseman Bryson Campbell hit .372 with 20 RBIs last season, and shortstop Michael Barnes hit .310 with 10 doubles, 20 RBIs and 23 runs. Senior lefty Brad Suciu, who had a 1.02 ERA with three saves, returns to solidify the bullpen.
NASSAU COMMUNITY COLLEGE
(18-11, 16-4 NJCAA Region XV)
The core of NCC’s strong defensive foundation — catcher Nicholas Milata, shortstop Nicholas Soriano, infielder Michael Tancredi and pitcher Adam Waldhof — returns for the Region XV champs. The team’s 18-11 record secured them a spot in the 2015 Junior College World Series, which they aim to return to this year.
SUFFOLK COUNTY COMMUNITY COLLEGE
(24-12, 20-5 NJCAA Region XV)
Suffolk CCC fell to Nassau CC in the Region XV championship last season, but the groundwork for a title has been laid. Sean Boyle (6-1, 2.51 ERA), whose excellent command resulted in a 54/6 strikeout-to-walk ratio last season, fronts the rotation. Kristopher Killackey, who went 4-1 with a 1.18 ERA, also has impressive control (38/8 strikeout-to-walk ratio). Joseph Deland and Nicholas VonOhlen return to boost the lineup.
NEW YORK INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (14-30)
NYIT enters its third season under coach Bob Malvagna. To improve upon its record last year, NYIT will lean upon junior infielder Louis Mele. The Island Trees alumnus was a stalwart in the middle of the team’s lineup, hitting .369 with nine home runs, 41 RBIs and 20 runs.