It's been a tough run for Hofstra baseball: 10 straight losing seasons from 2000-09. But thanks to fiery second-year coach Patrick Anderson and a young team with several quality upperclassmen, the Pride might not be too far from making a turnaround.
Hofstra (15-20) is still a work in progress, but after yesterday's 16-3 and 6-4 sweep of William & Mary, the Pride has eclipsed last season's total of 11 wins with 14 regular-season games remaining.
Senior second baseman Matt Prokopowicz has been a main factor in Hofstra's surge. Prokopowicz bats leadoff and tops Hofstra in batting (.409) and on-base percentage (.504).
Although the Massapequa High School graduate never has experienced a winning season in college, he's intent on leaving the program in better shape than it was when he arrived.
"I think it's very important to leave a lasting impression on the program," Prokopowicz said. "Showing the younger players my work ethic and just showing them how to play the game is important for the future of the program."
Prokopowicz has played second base, third base and catcher. He also has moved up and down the lineup over the years.
"I'm here to do whatever the team needs me to do," Prokopowicz said. "If the Skip wants to put me at third, I'll play third. If he wants me behind the plate, I'll do that."
Being a versatile contributor has boosted his career. "If you show you can hit anywhere in the lineup, it's a plus, especially if you're successful at it," Prokopowicz said. "I feel that it can only help me build up my pro value."
It also has set an example for the underclassmen, which pleases Anderson.
"We're trying to bring in young players who can learn from players like him," Anderson said. "Proko's very consistent and he was a freshman All-American."
Although Anderson's first priority is to do what's best for the team, showcasing Prokopowicz for major-league scouts is important.
"He's probably our best player and we had to get more at-bats for him," Anderson said. "I learned that from John Mizerock, who was interim manager and bullpen coach for the Royals. He said, 'You have to get your best players more at bats.' "
Prokopowicz is only part of the story for Hofstra baseball and its future. He noted the strong play of fellow seniors John Kenny (Valley Stream North) and Ethan Paquette. The program also got a boost from the state-of-the-art grandstand and press box installed last week.
"It gives you such a good feeling. It's college baseball when you look at it," Anderson said. "It gets them going and it gets them wanting to come to the ballpark every day."