Spring Preview: Baseball Builds off 2019


Fordham Baseball went to the NCAA Tournament last season, but the team is off to new goals as the season begins. (Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram)

Jimmy Sullivan, Sports Editor

Fordham Baseball had a historic 2019 season, and the Rams are already looking to put it behind them. No, not in a bad way — the Rams won the Atlantic 10 and made it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 21 years — but success can weigh on a team just as much as failure, and Fordham is looking to build off its success instead of bask in it.

“Our approach is the same as every year,” Fordham head coach Kevin Leighton said. “The goal is to make the A-10 tournament and from there, win it.”

Fordham will look to do that despite some key losses to its star-studded 2019 roster. Junior closer Kyle Martin was drafted by the Orioles shortly after the end of the season after posting 10 saves and a 2.44 ERA. Senior Anthony DiMeglio graduated and then signed with the Brewers as an undrafted free agent. Another top reliever, Anthony Zimmerman, also graduated and signed with the Reds. Finally, senior Mike Cowell transferred to Fairfield.

“Every year we have to replace the guys that we lose to graduation and the MLB Draft, and there is no doubt it is a challenge, especially replacing the draft guys,” Leighton said. “We lost some incredibly talented guys from last year’s group but I am confident that we will have new guys step up this year.”

For all Fordham is losing off last year’s team, the Rams are bringing a lot of talent back. The Rams’ top five hitters in OPS (on-base plus slugging) are all returning, as are seven of the nine position players who played 50 games or more last season. Leading the Fordham hitters is junior infielder Jake MacKenzie, who hit .305 last season and stole 43 bases, which was fourth in the country last season. Seniors Jake Baker, C.J. Vazquez and Alvin Melendez, along with sophomore Jason Coules — all of whom hit at least .270 last season — will also return to fortify a strong Fordham lineup. Baker led the team in hitting last season with a .309 average.

Also returning as position players are senior infielder Matt Tarabek, who hit .250 and scored 35 runs, and a potential bounce-back candidate in senior Billy Godrick, who had just 23 hits in 149 at-bats last year but brings speed to the lineup, particularly if he can get on base.

In addition to the position players, Fordham brings back perhaps the best player on the roster, 2019 All-American junior pitcher John Stankiewicz. Stankiewicz was outstanding in 2019, pitching to just 1.47 ERA in 13 starts. In postseason play, he was equally as dominant, giving up just one run in seven innings in his lone A-10 Tournament start against VCU. The team will have to replace DiMeglio in its starting rotation, but with Stankiewicz leading the charge, the starting rotation should be in extremely good hands.

Fordham also will add six freshmen to its roster when it begins play in 2020. Leighton specifically cited infielder Zach Selinger, pitcher and infielder Jack Popolizio and pitcher Ben Kovel as players to watch. He also called freshman pitcher Garrett Crowley “very impressive” so far in the team’s early practices.

“I think we have a number of guys that will be challenging for playing time this year which will push everyone to bring their best day in and day out,” Leighton said.
Fordham will look to reach the summit of the Atlantic 10 for a second straight season. It will not be easy and the Rams will have a target on their back every time they take the field, but last year’s championship experience, coupled with the multitudes of players returning from last year’s team, bode well for the team’s chances of repeating in 2020. That being said, the team seems to be over the high of winning a conference championship last season.

“Last year was a great year for us, but last year is over, and we need to continue to work hard day in and day out if we want to accomplish our goal of winning another A-10 Championship,” said Leighton.