New Year, New Team: 2018 Baseball Season Preview


Senior catcher Michael Gulino (23) is one of seven active seniors expected to lead the new look Setters team. Photo Courtesy of Pace U Athletics.

Kwadar Ray, Managing Editor

Alongside rainy weather and blooming flowers, the spring also welcomes the Pace baseball team’s new season.

The Setters enter 2018 ranked fourth in the Southwest Division in the NE-10 preseason Coaches’ Poll after their 29-19 season last year.

The Setters aim to reach a fifth consecutive NE-10 Tournament with a new makeup that’s far from identical to last season’s squad.

“What excites me about this team is the blend of old and young,” 18th-year head coach Hank Manning said. “I’m curious to see how freshmen and first-years starters mesh with the older guys.”

Only having four remaining starters from their offense last year, Coach Manning expects to experiment with the team’s lineups to begin the season.

Juniors Michael Barbato and Alex Pia are a couple of players who have not significantly contributed to previous years’ teams, but are expected to step up in 2018.

“Barbato is going to see some time behind the dish and will also see some DH time,” Manning said. “Alex [Pia] will get opportunities and if he takes it, he’ll at least be a guy who has been around college baseball the past couple of years with experience.”

However, the pitching staff–which Manning sees as one of the stronger aspects of the team–will be full of familiar faces. The Setters will rely heavily on the group to keep them competitive against fierce NE-10 competition such as New Haven, Le Moyne and Southern Connecticut State.

“I think we’ll be in every game because our pitching staff is senior dominant,” Manning said. “We have guys with experience, so anytime we have that group pitching, we have potential to be in every game.”

As for the infield, Coach Manning expects to see sophomore Brian Bohlander anchoring first base, senior Michael Salmonese at second, senior Matthew Kurdewan at third, and senior Paul Piccolino at shortstop.

Outside of his role behind the dish and in the outfield, Senior catcher Mike Gulino may also see some time at first base.

Gulino, who was named to the NE-10 All-Conference First Team last season, is entering his final year and despite his high play from last season, he still sees areas where he wants to improve his game.

“Hitting wise, I’d like to drive the ball to right field more and try not to pull everything,” Gulino said. “Of course, I’d like to hit more home runs too, but also spread the field more by hitting the ball to right, left, right center and center field. If i can expand myself as a hitter throughout the whole field, that’d just help me in the long run and help the team out.”

Despite the amount of newcomers that have arrived to the team, Gulino is as excited as Coach Manning to see how the new outfield and roster plays out.

“We have newcomers in the outfield that can supply things that last year’s outfield couldn’t,” he said. “This outfield may have more speed and maybe better defensive skills, perhaps not at the plate, but we can make up for that.”

Alongside his fellow seniors, Gulino has been waiting for his time to be the leader of the team since he first donned the blue and gold uniform his freshman year.

“Our seniors all understand that it’s our team this year and we know how we want to run it,” Gulino said. “We’ve known how we wanted to run way since our freshman and sophomore years because we always talked about it, and now it’s our time to do it.  I think I have so much confidence because the seniors understand that the younger guys look up to us and we know we can set great examples, grind out every day and the underclassmen will do the same thing.”

The Setters open the season at home against Bloomfield College on Mar. 2.