Friday, February 14, 2014

Experience and chemistry keys for Saint Joseph's baseball program

By SAMUEL BOTWINICK | Staff Writer
February 14, 2014, 12:00 p.m.
@avdbkr20samuel

There is no "I" in team, and the Saint Joseph's Hawks exemplify this to a tee.  While their record last season was even at 26-26, the Hawks thrive working together as a team, and look to keep adding to their success.

Steven Schuler, a star reliever for the Hawks, echoed the importance of being united as one in order to achieve great success.

"I guess it's part of being on a team," Schuler said.  "It's one big family."

"Am I going to do anything to help them learn?," Schuler added.  "Yes, absolutely.  That's part of being a family, is helping them learn.  To be honest I can learn stuff from them.  Just because you're a freshman doesn't mean I can't learn from you.  When one thing is going wrong with one of us, it's going wrong for all of us.  When one of us is facing adversity, we're facing it together.  That's what makes us a good team."  

Schuler believes a major reason why the program had struggled in previous years was because the players had a vision of winning but felt it was the goal of an Atlantic 10 Championship was unattainable.

"I think in the past we've had a lot of kids who were individualistic, and it was 'me,' 'me,' 'me', 'I', 'I', 'I.'  'I' want to do well, not 'we' want to do well," Schuler said.  "It wasn't, 'we' want to win the A-10.  It was, it would be cool if 'I' won the A-10 Championship, right?  It was very sad.  It's a different core group of guys now."

One vital piece for the Hawks in 2014 will be catcher Brian O'Keefe. The junior hit .292 last season while leading the Hawks in both home runs (6) and RBIs (37). 

"I'm just looking to have a good season and help us win in any way," O'Keefe said.  "We got a great team offensively this year.  Whether it's myself or anyone else coming through, we have enough guys to get the job done offensively this year.

"It's going to be a learning curve," O'Keefe added.  "There are going to be times when we struggle, but I have confidence in them that they're going to do well, that they're going to find their rhythm.  They're going to come in, throw in some big innings, and get the job done.  There are going to be days when our pitching staff isn't great, but our offense is certainly going to pick them up this year."

While the Hawks had a solid season at home (14-10), they struggled a bit on the road (12-16).  Coach Fritz Hamburg attributed this to several reasons: the being away from home factor; not having strong enough resilience; and not being able to finish off series.

"It's always nice to play at home," Hamburg said.  "Similarly to Sunday, when you win on the road, that separates the better teams from the others.  That was just something we have to grow and get better at.  I think a lot of that has to do with just how teams work, and, a lot of times, the better teams, those factors don't play in to the psyche as much as teams that aren't the best.  That's just part of us maturing as a ball club, and I think that the experiences that we had the last couple years has helped us." 

The Hawks were picked to finish sixth in the Atlantic 10 Preseason Baseball Coaches Poll. 

"We have a lot of returners," Hamburg added.  "We have a lot of seniors this year, a lot of veterans.  We're looking for those guys to use those experiences and those instances where we didn't have the success that we were looking for that we can grow on that and take advantage of it this year."

- The Philadelphia Baseball Review is the top baseball news blog in Philadelphia, providing news coverage and analysis of the 2014 Phillies and baseball in the Philadelphia-region.

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