Baseball and softball teams head for warmer climates

by Thomas Carroll / Beacon Correspondent • March 3, 2011

The prospect of an 1,800-mile bus ride can sound a bit daunting. While an airplane could take you from Boston to Florida in about three hours, hop on a bus and you’re looking at a 22-hour journey.

While this might sound like a deterrent, for the Emerson baseball team it provides an opportunity to come together.

“I always enjoyed the Florida trip,” says Pete Hall, an Emerson graduate student and baseball alum. “It always brought the team together and was a great way for us to start out the season.”

The younger players sound a bit unsure.

“As a freshman, I don’t really know what to expect on a 22- hour bus ride,” said broadcast journalism major James Sullivan, an outfielder. “I’m just hoping to catch as much sleep as possible.”

Head coach David Hanley said the ride will give the teammates a chance to get to know each other.

“A lot of sleep [on the bus],” Hanley said. “A couple of classroom sessions going over situations, signs, counts. It’s a great time for the team to bond,”

The Lions leave Beantown tomorrow and sprint down to Bradenton, Fla., where Emerson will shake off its cobwebs with just under a dozen games against a variety of colleges from across the nation.

Captain Nick Vennochi, a broadcast journalism major, explained the significance of the Florida trip.

“Its nice going to Florida because we get 11 games under our belt before conference play. Plus it brings our team closer together,” said Vennochi.

The baseball team has made a trip down south every year for the past five seasons. The 2007 trip was to Myrtle Beach and was the first year they made a team trip since 2004. But it was in 2008 when traveling to Florida became a  tradition.

The team went 15-20 last season, but only graduated two seniors and is returning eight starters.

“The team is looking good,” Vennochi said. “It’s really exciting to be on such a youthful team. We could shock a few people.”

This sentiment is also felt by many of the players and coaching staff.

“We are talented but very young,” Hanley said. “We have a freshman, James Sullivan, starting in center field, another freshman, Cal Ciarcia, starting at third base and freshman Kolby Woodfield will be in the starting line-up as well.”

Hanley added that he will have two freshman starting pitchers in Nick McGregor and Andy Brightman, along with Ben Quick, who is a junior transfer.

“If they all perform like I think they can, we will definitely beat a few unsuspecting teams,” Hanley said. “We worked our tails off this winter, and everyone is anxious to get this season started.”

- Softball -

[caption id="attachment_378" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Gabe Souza, Beacon Staff"][/caption]

The softball team will travel an even further distance, hopping on a flight to California, where head coach Phil McElroy said his team will face some of the best competition in the country.

“Southern California is a hotbed of softball,” McElroy said. “We think this is a good opportunity to compete against some of the very best softball teams in the country. It also gives us a chance to compete in front of a large alumni base we have in LA.”

McElroy’s bunch looks to be, once again, one of the top teams in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference this season. Emerson is coming off a very successful campaign, where it went 28-13 (20-4 GNAC). This was the follow-up season to their 2009 GNAC Championship.

“The goal this year is to make sure we take one inning at a time,” McElroy said. “Our goal is to win every inning we play and the results will show. The program has been to the NCAA tournament two out of the last four years and the GNAC finals three out of the last four. We will make sure we don’t get ahead of ourselves by taking it on inning at a time.”

From March 6-10, Emerson will play three doubleheaders against Chapman University, California Lutheran University and Whittier College before advancing to the San Marcos Tournament at California State University on March 11-12.

“We’ve done a good amount of conditioning at practice, so we’re all in great shape for California,” said broadcast journalism major Bianca Buono, a freshman outfielder. “By the end of the week when we start to get tired, our strong competitive edge will get us through.”