BY JAMIR WILSON
Three straight World Series appearances?
If the Salisbury University baseball team wants to get back there this season, the shoes of numerous graduated players from last year will need to be filled.
Junior Pete Grasso has made major contributions to the success of the team and will be a factor in the team’s future. Grasso is the leader in hits, RBI, and slugging percentage for returning players and was named first-team Capital Athletic Conference and third-team All-region, making him no stranger to accolades.
“My best achievement was my senior year of high school when I got player of the year for the state of Delaware,” Grasso said. “I’ve been playing baseball since I was about eight-years-old. I really started loving it in high school when I knew I could eventually play in college, you know everyone has a dream playing professional.”
The Wilmington native admitted his parental support has always been one of the factors that drives him to go out and have the success he’s had since starting the sport.
“My parents are great support, they come to every game they can. They even go to the away trips, so they’ve been there to support me throughout my whole life,” he said.
Grasso’s parents ultimately had a pivotal factor in their son’s decision to play for the Sea Gulls. Their desire for their child to receive a top of the line education and play the sport he loves made Salisbury an easy choice.
“Definitely because of the academics first, that’s a big thing for me and my parents,” Grasso said. “Eventually get a job after school because baseball is going to end at one point.”
The team’s tradition of winning and success in recent seasons also helped make his decision easier.
“The baseball team has been a top team in the country for years now, they’ve been to the regionals 16 years in a row just coming to a winning program was big,” he said.
Adding 20 new players to a team can shake up previous chemistry, and may take a long time to build a strong unit. The Sea Gulls have that tough task in 2016, but have players like Grasso new players can follow for direction.
Sea Gulls’ head coach Troy Brohawn knows Grasso not only can put up big numbers year after year, but can also lead by example and be the leader Salisbury needs.
“We have a lot of freshman this year and although he’s not very vocal, he definitely leads with his determination and play,” Brohawn said.
Senior Alex Lipman looks to his teammate for experience, knowledge and leadership as well. The duo are a key part to Salisbury’s success at the plate and in the field.
“Pete’s a leader by example type. He works hard in practice everyday and we all feed off of that,” Lipman said.
Regardless of the situation, Brohawn knows Grasso has the experience and knowledge to contribute in big games and help his team secure wins when called upon.
“(He brings) experience and versatility. He’s played in big games here at SU and (has) been successful. We’re going to depend on him on the mound as well the field and hitting,” Brohawn said.
Grasso says losing in the World Series two years in a row can be a difficult thing to deal with, but he is making the experience a positive for the upcoming season to provide extra motivation.
“(Losing in the World Series) definitely made us more humble because we’ve gone there two years in a row and we’ve gone 0-4 now,” Grasso said. “We know what we have to do once we get there, it’s definitely given us a little drive to get back there and win a few games and maybe win the National Championship.”
From year-to-year it is utterly important for players to improve. Grasso’s focus was to make sure he got better during the off-season while helping his teammates get to the next level as well.
“I really worked out in the weight room. To get stronger, get more pop (when) hitting, and get a little more velocity when throwing,” he said.
Grasso tallied five homeruns in his sophomore campaign after not hitting one his rookie year. Brohawn, a former MLB player who has seen professional ball players take the next step admits he’s seen similar improvements from his junior leader.
“His mental approach. He has tons of talent but last year questioned it. (He is) a lot more confident this year,” Brohawn said.
Although it is a new season for the Sea Gulls, the expectations are always the same for the team. Win in the regular season, win in the playoffs and ultimately win a World Series.
“Our team goal is we want to win the conference. Last year we didn’t win the conference but we’ve gone to 16 straight regionals so we definitely want to get to the regionals and win some games in the World Series. Going 0-4 isn’t what we wanted in the last two years at the World Series. Winning the conference first is big time,” Grasso said.
Grasso and the Salisbury baseball team have major expectations to live up to. With 20 new players and a second year coach, the team will have to go through some valleys in order to reach the peak they desire.