By Jessica Ganga
Nation & World Editor
Last year, the Lions’ baseball team came into the 2014 season strong by winning 15 out of their first 20 games, which included a 10-game winning streak. They continued their success throughout the season, only to be ousted by William Patterson University in the second round of the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship Tournament.
The team is returning many key players, including junior outfielder John Rizzi. During the off-season, Rizzi won the American Baseball Coaches Association-Rawlings Gold Glove Award for his impressive defensive play. During the 2014 season, Rizzi committed only one error, while catching 108 fly balls for a field percentage of .991. Rizzi was also named to the All-NJAC First Team as an outfielder, having a career-defining season. The outfielder led the team in stolen bases with 22, ranking him second in the New Jersey Athletic Conference. Rizzi also led the team with 56 hits and 39 runs at the end of the season.
Senior Connor Smith will be returning to the pitchers mound and, like Rizzi, is going to be another key player on the roster. Smith earned a spot on the ABCA/Rawlings NCAA Division III Mid-Atlantic All Region Third Team honors. Smith ended the season 6-2 and an ERA of 2.33. He also had five complete games under his belt and pitched back-to-back shutouts against RPI and Muhlenberg College.
The lineup is still strong despite losing four seniors after last season. The Lions are returning with eight of their nine starters. The team has also gained 11 new freshmen to the roster, which will add new skills, but more importantly, a new dynamic to the team.
The College begins their season on the road against Haverford College. The last time the Lions faced Haverford was in 2012 when the College beat Haverford 7-1.
The Lions’ home opener is against Oswego State University on Sunday, March 8, at George Ackerman Park.