By Sophia Ricco
Maintaining control and building momentum on the baseball field will be the focus for the Elwood-John Glenn varsity team as they look forward to the rest of the season.
The Knights battled to 7-6 victory against Huntington on Monday. Head coach Matthew Rocchio feels the team has come together over the past weeks and played well so far, with a record of 2-1in league play.
“They’ve been showing a lot of heart,” Rocchio said. “We came back from five runs the other day and won, which was great for our first game against Babylon.”
This season the boys have concentrated on reducing errors on the field that allow the opposing team to get on base or score. It is crucial that the team’s pitchers are throwing strikes and fielders solid on defense.
“We just want to minimize the mental mistakes, as the season goes on, that should improve,” Rocchio said. “We want to play up to our ability and show that off.”
Rocchio said the Knights’ batting lineup for the season is starting to take shape, and he feels can deliver at the plate.
“A big thing is momentum,” Rocchio said. “We want to carry a momentum, whether it’s a big strikeout or getting some base hits the next inning. It’s huge for us.”
The team was fortunate enough to practice outside at the start of the season, something that hasn’t always been possible with cold weather. This allowed coaches to evaluate players in a game mentality early on. Rocchio said players break up into groups at practice, and work on specific drills for their position before they come together for team games.
“We try to put all the players in ‘game-like’ situations, so if something does happens in a game, they’ve seen the situation before,” Rocchio said. “If they haven’t seen it before, the next time we have practice we’ll go over what they should do.”
Although the team is mostly underclassmen, Rocchio feels the boys possesses the talent to go far. Many of the athletes worked hard in offseason, voluntarily practicing two nights a week in the winter.
“I think we have a lot of potential,” Rocchio said. “A lot of the younger guys will be getting more play time and show they can handle it. It’s going to be interesting since we are in a tough league, I’m excited to see what the season brings.”
Matthew Polestino has already hit a homerun this season, and has proven himself as a great pitcher and outfielder. Coming out of the bullpen, Rocco Fratarcangeli will play a key role as the team’s closer.
Nicholas DiDiego, a three-year varsity veteran, began as a catcher, but transitioned to first base and pitcher to utilize his strong throwing arm. The team is also expecting big things from Nicholas Aufiero, who batted .330 as a sophomore last season.
“I don’t have captains chosen, but they run themselves and know who the leaders are,” Rocchio said. “I let them take the lead with this, it’s whoever steps up into the leadership role.”
This year, Glenn welcomed assistant coach Billy Riedel to the staff. The former Knights catcher has extensive knowledge of the game of baseball.
This is Rocchio’s third year with varsity after coaching junior varsity and at Briarcliff College. In that time he’s learned when to rest his players.
“I have to communicate with them constantly, about when we need a lighter day,” Rocchio said. “We usually have a light day when we have two games in a row, we still work but I try not to have them throw as much.”
The Knights will play an average of three times a week for a total of 20 games this season. Each game brings a new challenge, with different players, abilities and styles.
“We don’t know what the other teams are doing right now, all we can really do is play our own game and see what happens,” Rocchio said.
Glenn is eager to take on Harborfields in a rivalry game that will played under the lights of Greenlawn Park on April 16.