The Alfred State baseball team takes the field for the first time in 2018 on Friday (2/23) as a new era of Pioneer baseball begins. The Pioneers begin play in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference and will look to make some noise in their first season.
21 players return from Coach Mike Armstrong's (2nd season) 2017 team that finished 10-30 but finished the season with victories in six of their last eight games. The returners are led by Lucas Cornell (Alfred Almond) and David Zuber (Honeoye Falls Lima). Both Cornell and Zuber were named to the DIII Players to Watch List.
- Cornell, a two-way player, was key last season at the plate and on the mound. He appeared in 31 games in 2017 and hit .289 with 10 doubles, 2 homers, and 20 RBI. On the mound he was 2-3 with a 3.83 ERA in 40 innings with 33 strikeouts. For his efforts he was named 2nd team All-Independent.
- Zuber appeared in 32 games last year, primarily at 1B or DH, and hit .273 with four doubles, one homer, and 17 RBI. Following the season he was named to the USCAA All-Academic Team and to the All-Independent team. For his career he is a .268 hitter with seven doubles, two triples, three homers, and 33 RBI.
Armstrong is excited about the season. "We are a new and improved ball club with a great team culture. Our team is a family and this family is primed to be competitive every time we step onto the baseball diamond. I expect big things from this year's group and although we will be young, I think we will surprise many of our opponents."
Other Returners to Watch:
- Rafael Perozo (Bronx/St. Raymond) - Perozo returns and will be a two-way player seeing time at 1B or DH while spending time on the mound. Last season, he hit .278 with four extra base hits and 11 RBI while on the mound he was 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA in 14.1 innings of relief work.
- Garrett Mack (Avon) - Mack returns to anchor the pitching staff. He was 3-2 last season in 10 appearances with a 3.51 ERA.
- Colin Johnson (Alfred Almond) - Johnson appeared in 22 games last year, mostly behind the plate, and collected seven extra base hits and 10 RBI.
- Reno Cheshire (Port Jervis) - Cheshire was a key cog of the bullpen appearing in 17 games and tossing 14.1 innings.
- Connor Pingitore (Amsterdam/Broadalbin-Perth) - Pingitore, a All-State selection, will be in the mix in the outfield as the Pioneers will have to replace all three starters from last year.
- Josh Laurie (LeRoy) - Laurie, a two-time All-state selection, will work to be in the lineup everyday in the infield.
- AJ Gartland (Irondequoit) - Gartland, a two-time All-State selection, will try to work his way into the conference rotation from the start of the season. One of three Pioneer left handed pitchers on the team.
Alfred State was predicted to finish 10th in the AMCC preseason coaches poll. LaRoche, the defending conference champion, was ranked #1 followed by Penn State Behrend, Penn State Altoona, Mount Aloysius, Pitt-Greensburg, Pitt-Bradford, Medaille, Hilbert, and D'Youville.
The Pioneers begin their 40 game schedule this weekend when they head to Virginia Beach, VA to play at Virginia Wesleyan. On Friday, the blue & gold will battle Brockport at 9 a.m. and the hosts at 3 p.m. while on Saturday they take on Brockport again at 9 a.m. and Ithaca at 3 p.m.
Senior first basemen David Zuber sat down recently and answered some questions about the upcoming season.
How has the atmosphere been during the preseason? The atmosphere this preseason has been great. There's been a ton of good energy and everyone is excited about the season. We can't wait to get out there this weekend and see how we compete against some really good teams. As usual our team is still a family which is the best part and makes us unique.
What are your expectations for the season? My expectations for the team are high. I personally do not believe many other teams in this country have worked close to as hard as we did this offseason. From top to bottom everyone has improved and it showed in our fall games. This first half of the season will be a test for us to show how good we really are but I think even the tough games will benefit us and eventually lead us to competing for an AMCC title.
What are your personal goals for this season? My personal goals for this season is to reach my 100 hits in a career. I watched Cullen (Franz) do it and its something I want to accomplish as well. Other than that I just want to do everything I can to help the team win. At the end of last year we got on a roll and I started playing a lot better so I would like to keep that going.
What are looking forward to the most this season? This season I am most looking forward to competing with and hopefully shocking some really good teams. It's the first time since I've been here that we get to play other New York schools such as Brockport, Ithaca, and U of Rochester which excites me. We have a lot of younger guys who will be thrown into rolls that will be vital and I'm excited to see how they do because I believe they'll exceed expectations.
Is there a significance in the number you wear? I wear number 24 because of Ken Griffey Jr. He was one of my favorite players growing up and once I came to college I started watching even more of his highlights and how he played the game. He almost always was smiling and having fun, while still working and playing hard. I decided that was what I wanted my teammates to think of me as well, which led to me changing my number to 24.