BY JAMIR WILSON
The Salisbury University baseball team accomplished their goals in the 2015 season, winning the Capital Athletic Conference championship, advancing to the Division III tournament, winning the Mid-Atlantic regional and appearing in the college World Series.
Salisbury head coach Troy Brohawn believes last season was a great year for the program and especially for many of his players.
“I think it was successful, every year your goals are to play well in the conference, make the NCAA regional and have a chance to go to the World Series,” he said. “We had a very senior-led class last year that had been to the World Series as juniors, and for them to make it back-to-back years was a pretty special season.”
Even with the successful year Brohawn had in his first season, the former Arizona Diamondbacks’ pitcher wants 2016 to be even better.
“The tradition here was set long before I got here. Coach Fleetwood and Coach Cyrus…they’ve developed a culture and a tradition around here,” Brohawn said. “The tradition’s been set to play well in the conference, to play well enough to earn a regional bid, and then the program has gone to the World Series three of the past five years, so the next step is to do all three of those things but when we get out there to fare better than we have in the past.”
In 2016, the Sea Gulls have their eyes on the ultimate prize; a national championship.
After losing many key seniors to graduation, senior infielder Alex Lipman believes despite the losses of his older teammates, the 2016 squad has the same confidence and charisma they have had in the past.
“We can win the whole thing, and we’d be selling ourselves short if we’re not looking to win the championship,” Lipman said.
The confidence the team shows is led by the seniors that have appeared in the World Series the last two seasons, and they are stepping up to the plate for their last season.
“I’ve definitely gotten stronger, I worked on all facets of my game. I played in the Ripken League this summer, which was really competitive so that improved my game all around,” Lipman said.
Salisbury has relied on its pitching in recent years to shutdown opposing offenses. In 2015, the Gulls tallied 315 strikeouts and had an average ERA of 7.93.
The Sea Gulls lost pitchers Brett Collacchi and Dan Fein, but Brohawn has confidence his younger pitchers have what it takes to take control at the mound.
“I think we’ve brought in a very deep class of pitchers that hopefully, if we get an opportunity to get back out there (to the World Series) we can matchup better,” Brohawn said.
Two returning pitchers are Ryan Daiss and Connor Shockley, both recorded six wins last season when starting at the mound.
Shockley had an outstanding 6-0 record in 2015 with 34 strikeouts. He plans on outdoing himself when called upon this season.
“Right now, hopefully (I’ll) still be a starter but also get some work out in the pen if that’s the case, but I’d like to think that if I can capitalize on a few of the no-decisions I had then maybe I can get a little better of a record,” he said.
The infield duo of Lipman and senior Pete Grasso provides a spark at the plate. The two combined for 106 hits last season, giving the team security behind their pitchers both posting a 92 percent fielding percentage.
“I think we can definitely be better than last year,” Lipman said when discussing his chemistry with Grasso.
The downside of having a senior-led team in previous years is trying to replace them. Brohawn made it a positive by saying that recruiting is the best way to replace the seniors.
“The opportunity to go out and recruit players that you want, and we get them in here and each one of my staff members and myself we love to teach,” Brohawn said.
Transfers Connor Reeves (P), Brad Keith (OF) and Ryan Gough (P) were big additions to the roster that the coaches are excited to bring into the program to help make up for graduated players.
Although Brohawn is approaching his second season, he has a lot of experience when dealing with any level of baseball. He believes his years as a player and coach have prepared him for any challenges that may occur in the upcoming season.
“I played for a lot of great managers. I played 12 years, I was fortunate enough to play around a lot of great players towards the end of my career I was like a sponge to all those guys trying to get as much knowledge as I could,” Brohawn said. “When I came here the first thing I wanted to do was to share that (knowledge). It’s a little different as far as the kids have to buy into what we’re teaching and what we’re saying in order for it to work.”
With expectations as high as possible, it will take a full effort from everyone on the team and on the coaching staff to reach the World Series and bring a championship back to Salisbury.