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A Return to the Diamond: A Reflection and Preview of the Baseball Team

By Andrew Smith


The back-to-back reigning regular season champion of the Southwest Division of the NE10 Conference is anxious to return to the diamond. Pre-season polls have the Panthers ranked as the favorite to reclaim this title and to place fifth in the region. The end of the offseason marks a great time to reflect before the long season begins.


The baseball team prepares to take the field. Photo by AU Athletics

Current senior Nick Lopez reflected on his hopes and goals going into the season. “We’ve definitely got high expectations for ourselves as a team. We’re a super talented group, and we’re coming off a very strong year, which saw us win our division for the third season in a row, make the conference playoffs and receive an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament.”


Lopez said the end goal is playing for a National Championship in Carey, North Carolina. “But it starts with making the playoffs and then winning the conference,” he added.


Kyle Olson celebrates a home run during a game. Photo by AU Athletics

Graduate student Kyle Olson, who finished as one of the most productive hitters in the NE10 conference last year, stated, “We as a group from the players to coaches have very high expectations for our team as a whole. We are returning a lot of the same guys from our lineup so we expect a lot from all of our returning guys and even from some of our newer and younger guys.”


Each sport season, athletes not only learn more about their sport but also about themselves. These athletes spend a lot of time individually preparing and working together. Lopez shared a very powerful message about the importance of mental health. “I had to learn how to deal with and overcome physical injury, along with the mental effect an injury can have on you, which can be worse,” he said. “I spent most of the calendar year of 2022 sidelined with injury, and it affects you in ways you don’t expect going in.”


Lopez added, “Some of the things I dealt with were not being able to play the sport I love, frustrations with setbacks I had in the recovery process, and self doubt on if I’ll be the player I was before because of all the time missed and not being able to train the way I normally would.”


Nick Lopez, a current senior, has high expectations going into the season. Photo by AU Athletics

Furthermore, Lopez spoke about the importance of using resources and people available to you. “Thankfully, I was able to learn how to deal with and manage those issues, and a big part of that comes from the fact that I’m surrounded by some very special people in my life that I was able to lean on and talk to. I think Morgan’s Message is doing a great job of promoting and advocating for mental health resources for student athletes, and a lot of what they’re doing really spoke to me and helped me as well. If anyone doesn’t know what Morgan’s Message is, I highly encourage you to look into it. Mental Health Matters.” (Editor’s Note: Morgan’s Message is a nonprofit organization created in 2020 with the goal of addressing mental health within the student-athlete community. See the story in the October 24 issue of The Delphian at www.thedelphianau.com.)


Olson’s most important lesson learned was the importance of trust. “This team isn't just a baseball team; it is a brotherhood. We band together forever. We always pick one another up whether it’d be physically, mentally or socially.”


Olson added, “I wouldn’t want to play ball with any other group of men than the guys I have met throughout my five years here.”


Head coach William Ianniciello joked about how expectations before a season can quickly change. “The best lesson is to expect the unexpected. Have a plan, but be prepared to make adjustments along the way. As the old expression goes, if you want a good laugh, tell the baseball gods about your plan.”


Ianniciello also discussed the current roster construction and how it looks going into the season. “We have a talented and veteran returning lineup, plus quality and depth in our pitching,” he said. “I stay away from the prediction business, but we expect to have another strong year and hopefully a special one. We hope to stay healthy.”


Lastly, Lopez and Olson shared personal remarks on their training program in the offseason. Olson stated, “Our team is very big on going to the gym and lifting consistently whether it is as a team with Angelo [Salomon] our trainer or by ourselves at home or the Adelphi fitness center.”


Lopez added, “For me personally, I take time off from baseball activities, hitting, throwing and fielding, for about a month and a half following the fall season, which ends around Halloween. I take this break just to give myself a mental reset, because baseball is a long, mentally exhausting season and sport.”


He said he usually starts his baseball activities again in mid-December, and slowly progresses through those as the winter continues. “For example, when it comes to hitting I’ll start with strictly tee work, then move to front toss, then to overhand BP, and then eventually facing live pitching about a week or two before I return to school. I do similar progressions with fielding and throwing as well.”


Lopez and Olson both expressed excitement about the student body cheering the baseball team on. “Seeing your support and getting to play in front of the student body of Adelphi means the world to us, and we feed off that energy,” said Lopez. “Please come and support us!”


Olson added, “I hope everyone who is seeing this can come help support us at some of our home games. We would really appreciate it. There’s nothing we love more than seeing stands behind home plate packed and rocking during games.”

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