A season on the brink: La Salle has a ton to play for in 2021, including the future of a storied program

Colin Kennedy sits at the front of the La Salle rotation
The La Salle baseball program is in a unique place entering the 2021 season. On one hand, head coach David Miller and his staff have built a talented roster comprised primarily of talent from the Philadelphia area. On the other hand, the university has plans in place to eliminate the program upon the conclusion of the season as a cost-cutting measure. 

"My kids are hungry, they want to play, and now they have an enormous chip on their shoulder," Miller said. "This could be a good thing if it gets the alumni a little more engaged and gets my baseball team a little more focused. These kids want to stay at La Salle and that's what we want." 

Tatem Levins leads the offense, entering the year as a Perfect Game Atlantic 10 All-Conference honoree. The junior backstop out of Langhorne (Notre Dame H.S.) hit .321 last year in 14 games while leading the club in RBIs (13), hits (17), doubles (6), total bases (26), slugging (.491), and OPS (.900). He also hit 17 doubles and nine home runs with 50 RBIs in 2019. 

"This guy is a serious threat in that lineup," said one local scout affiliated with Major League Baseball. "He's certainly one of the top-five bats in this region to keep an eye on. He knows the zone and stays in it. He has power but doesn't needlessly swing for the fences. He's legit." 

Along with Levins, the Explorers return several other starters from last year, including senior outfielder Jack Cucinotta (Chestnut Hill Academy), sophomore outfielder Elijah Dickerson (Rancocas Valley), and graduate student first baseman Ryan Guckin (West Grove). 

A major addition to the club is junior infielder Salvatore Monticciolo, a transfer from Nova Southeastern University. The Holmdel, N.J. native played at Fairleigh Dickinson in 2019 and was named NEC Freshman of the Year after hitting .305 with 13 home runs and 46 RBIs. He was also recognized by Collegiate Baseball News as a Freshmen All-American First Baseman. 

"I think we have a very strong lineup," Miller said. "We should be a power-producing team if things go the way I want. It's a very potent lineup. We lost a few guys to transfer, but I think we're in a very good position. We have 13 or 14 guys right now that could start and we're two players deep in some positions. It's a nice spot to be in." 

On the mound, the Explorers return several starting pitchers, including senior righty Colin Scanlon (Saint Joseph's Prep) who held opponents to a .202 batting average over four starts while posting a 3.22 ERA. Sophomore southpaw Gabe Rappa (Neuman-Goretti) also enters the season with a rotation spot, coming off four starts last season collecting 15 strikeouts over 21 1/3 innings. Junior right-hander Manny Corporan (Bloomfield) also figures to make some starts after holding opponents to a .209 batting average last year over 23 1/3 innings in four starts. 

Freshman righty Frank Elissalt also figures to be in the mix with the starting rotation. A prized prospect out of Miami, he routinely sits in the low-to-mid 90s and can throw four pitches for strikes. 

"He's that type of kid that we've been waiting for," Miller said. 

Now in his fourth year at the helm, Miller has made significant strides in making the Explorers relevant in the local baseball landscape. His recruiting classes over each of the last three years have been nationally recognized and he led the club to 25 victories in 2019, the fourth-highest total in program history. 

"We've got the talent," Miller said. "Now it's about going out and getting the results." 

The Atlantic 10 conference is broken up into two divisions this year to limit travel. The Explorers will compete in the North Division with Saint Joseph's, Rhode Island, UMass, Fordham, and Saint Bonaventure. The top two teams in the division will advance to the conference postseason. 

La Salle will open their 51-game schedule on February 19 with a contest on the road at Seton Hall.
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BY PATRICK GORDON
Managing Editor

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