Marist Baseball Pre-season Profile
Photo Source: Marist Athletics
Where does a team go when it has reached the pinnacle of its conference? It’s hard to say, but it’s something that is both intriguing and exciting to watch unfold. The Marist baseball team reached the pinnacle of its conference in 2017, when the team won the MAAC title and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009. With a new season on the horizon, increased expectations have this team thinking about how it can improve in 2018.
“Last season was huge for us as a team and as a program,” said Austin Phillips, a sophomore pitcher for the Red Foxes. “Our guys use last years success as a reason to work even harder...it made [us] realize how hard it is to get into a position to win a championship, and the guys next to me want nothing more than to do it again.”
The Red Foxes begin this season as the preseason number one in the MAAC, followed by last year’s regular season runner-up, the Canisius Golden Griffins, and the regular season champion Fairfield Stags. According to some of the team’s leaders, the preseason ranking isn’t much more than a number.
“I always thought that a [preseason ranking] doesn’t really matter,” senior captain and pitcher Charlie Jerla told the Red Fox Network earlier this week. Jerla was named to the preseason All-MAAC team, along with his teammate outfielder Frankie Gregoire. Now a junior, he has been named to the final All-MAAC team twice before, both as a freshman and as a sophomore. “Everybody just really wants to win,” says Gregoire.
Phillips couldn’t agree more with his teammates, echoing a similar sentiment on the number one ranking. “Last year, Fairfield was [first] and Canisius was [second] on the preseason poll...we went on to beat Fairfield three out of four games and Canisius four out of four.” Phillips went on to say that “[the ranking] doesn’t affect or change our attitude, but it does give us motivation.”
The team graduated five seniors last year, and welcome in a total of 10 freshman for the upcoming season. What they lost in experience, they may have gained back in youth. For the coaching staff, led by head coach Chris Tracz, the challenge of regrouping with an abundance of youth is a welcome one.
“We have to practice and prepare a little bit differently, because their talented and we need them to play,” Tracz said of the newest members of the roster. “[For us to prepare] it’s a little bit on the freshman to grow up quickly, but it’s also on the upperclassmen to take expanded roles and fill in some gaps.”
Entering his ninth season as the Red Foxes head coach, Tracz has had seasons of struggle, but also some seasons of great success, including last year’s tournament run. While wanting his team to use their success from last season as motivation, he hopes they can stay focused on their primary goals one step at a time.
“As a program, our ultimate goal is to put ourselves in a position to win a championship, but our plans are on how we can get better today, and this week, and this month,” Tracz said.
The Foxes begin the season with an away trip at Furman University (starting February 16), and then head to Stillwater, Oklahoma, for a three-game series against the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
The here and now is all that’s on Coach Tracz’s mind. “We are really far away from a finished product, so our focus is on how we can put our guys in a position to be successful, and to fit the puzzle pieces together as the season moves along.”