For three ill-starred years, Mike Marino remained motivated by his belief that things would improve.
He redshirted his freshman season at Farmingdale State after breaking his right hand. He batted .250 the following season and only received 28 at-bats. He hit a measly .226 in 31 at-bats last season.
It wasn't exactly an auspicious start to a college baseball career for the Carey High School graduate. Some would've hung up the cleats.
"That's not my type of personality," said Marino, a junior outfielder. "No matter what, I was going to try and work my way into the lineup, knowing that this year, it was my spot to lose. And, thankfully, I haven't lost it yet."
And it doesn't look like he will anytime soon.
Marino is hitting a scorching .463 with one home run and 11 RBIs through Farmingdale's first 13 games. He owns a .521 on-base percentage after 51 plate appearances and has scored nine runs.
"It's just, wow," Farmingdale coach Keith Osik said. "We couldn't be more happy for Mike. After playing behind a couple of older guys the past two years he finally has his shot and he doesn't want to let it go."
Marino started the season batting seventh in the lineup, but was recently moved to third. He's seen tougher pitches lately and has stayed consistent. Last Saturday in a 14-5 win against Maritime, Marino went 3-for-5 with a homer.
Since his freshman year, Marino said, he has gained 20 pounds of muscle, but the biggest change, according to Osik, is a shortened swing.
"I always knew I had the ability to hit the ball far and for power," Marino said. "The thing is now is that I'm more confident with two strikes. I'm not as anxious. In the past couple of years that was a problem. I don't think my coach was too happy with it."
Osik is beaming now. Marino is one of several hot hitters for the Rams (10-3, 2-0), who hope to win their seventh straight Skyline Conference championship this season. For the first time in three years, Marino is key to getting there.
"Right now the ball is looking like a beach ball at the plate," Marino said. "It's all just been so rewarding."
LIU Post softball
Jamie Apicella recently surpassed 600 wins as softball coach at LIU Post and it seems as long as he continues to want to guide the program, dozens more are in the near future.
Apicella, who is 604-240 in 16 seasons, doesn't have much to be displeased with as far as this year's group goes. And a group of talented underclassmen has the potential to carry the success for the next few seasons.
Six hitters in the lineup own batting averages higher than .325 for Post (13-3). Freshman Kayla McCoy, a Smithtown West graduate, starts at first base and is hitting .387. Freshman starting pitcher Ashley Martin (Long Beach) is 6-0 with a 1.28 ERA in 432/3 innings.
"We are excited," Apicella said. "We have a strong group of returning players and a few freshmen who have really played exceptionally well."