As a team without a league, the New York Institute of Technolgy Bears are in a tough position.
Since going independent in 2014, when the Great West Conference went defunct, there have been very few roads to the NCAA playoffs, and getting there would require a nearly perfect season.
So instead, NYIT, which went 17-26 last season, hopes to make opponents take notice.
“I think we’ve been trying to put ourselves back on the map,” said pitcher Frank Valentino of West Islip, who allowed one hit in five innings in the Bears’ 6-0 season-opening loss to Arkansas State Friday. “New York Tech was a powerhouse in the 80s and 90s. We want to get back and beat the other New York teams — St. John’s, Stony Brook, Albany, and Manhattan.”
Valentino, who played at Suffolk CCC-Selden before joining NYIT last season. The team will wrap up a four-game series with Arkansas State Sunday afternoon before heading home to face Sacred Heart next weekend.
The first half of March features games with Stony Brook, Hofstra, Albany, St. John’s, and LIU Brooklyn.
“I think there’s a lot of schools that look at New York Tech as an easy win or a light schedule game, but we work hard and have a great team this year,” Valentino said. “We’ll be making a lot of noise and I think a lot of these teams aren’t going to be expecting what we bring.”
It’s been an uphill climb for NYIT since Bob Hirschfield, who won 668 games in 33 years, retired after the 2011 season. Bob Malvagna was named coach in 2013.
Third baseman Louis Mele, of Island Trees, who was part of Malvagna’s inaugural recruiting class, said he agonized as the team went 4-46 his freshman year, and vowed to turn it around. “I told myself that by the time I got to my senior year, I want to be an above .500 team,” Mele, who hit .313 and drove in 28 runs last season, said.
But even more than wins, Mele and the rest of his teammates want respect.
“We feel like we’ve been overlooked and overshadowed,” Mele said. “We have a lot of guys that can play ball on our team and we’re finally getting the exposure we deserve.”