One year makes a big difference for baseball team

Last season the Mercyhurst College baseball team won its first regular season PSAC West title while advancing to the NCAA regional tournament.

The team also saw players Steve Grife and Jamie Walczak taken in the MLB draft. Overall last season was the best in recent memory for the Lakers under Head Coach Joe Spano.

This year’s team is not last year’s, though, and the growing pains are showing. The Lakers are currently under .500 with a 8-10 record and has a much different make-up than last year’s team.

“We lost our three best hitters last year and we lost our best pitcher from last year. This year’s team is more defensively oriented than last year’s,” Spano said.

The team has been having some youth-related troubles in terms of finding consistency.

“This year has been pretty up-and-down. We have been doing some things well, but we are really struggling to put it all together,” Spano said.

Despite some of the growing pains the Lakers have been experiencing, they are still ranked seventh in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Division II Atlantic poll.

Spano does not think this ranking is necessarily merit-based.

“We are still getting a lot of respect for how we performed last season and people still see us as that team from last season, but we aren’t,” Spano said.

The Lakers have some young players who will be looking to fill the gaps from last season.

“Freshman Ben Rawding, Bill Gerstenslager and sophomore Eric Ashley are really going to be key in the pitching staff this year,” Spano said.

The Lakers are also excited to have a veteran backstop in senior Adam Schlessal catching this young pitching staff.

“We are just getting Adam back from injury and it is nice to have him out there contributing,” Spano said.

There is one returning star from last year in sophomore infielder Ethan Santora, who tied the Lakers’ record of home runs in a single season with 16. Santora has a lot of pressure on him to perform to that same level, especially now, since the Lakers will need him to carry them offensively.

“Ethan is doing very well this year with a good start. This year he is battling some high expectations and the fact that teams are pitching him more cautiously than last season,” Spano said.