Saint Joseph's looks to compete in a tough Atlantic 10
Saint Joseph's enters the 2021 campaign with a strong offensive core led by junior third baseman Nate Thomas and fifth-year outfielder Jake Artz. Together, they hope to lead a Hawks program to its first winning season since 2016. 

Thomas hit .354 last season with five doubles, two homers, and 15 RBIs in 15 games. He's a career .304 hitter entering 2021 and looks to be one of the premier sluggers in the Atlantic 10. 

"We believe we can compete with this group of guys, no question," said Hawks head coach Fritz Hamburg. 

Junior catcher Andrew Cossetti (La Salle) aims to bounce back after a tough 2020 where he collected just two hits over 39 at-bats. He hit .289 the year prior with eight homers while collecting 42 RBIs en route to earning recognition on the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team. 

"He had some tough luck last year," said Hamburg. "I think what happened is we kept trying to work him through it. Obviously, some of his at-bats weren't where he - or we - wanted them to be, but we kept working with him to try and get him through it because when he's on he's pretty darn good. But then it became a question of when is this thing going to break. The good news now though is he's had a good summer and he's in a great place." 

Senior Brian Vance, a career .293 hitter while at Saint Joseph's, will open behind Cossetti on the depth chart, but he figures to see plenty of action as the Atlantic 10 has gone to a four-game weekend series format this year. 

"Brian brings a lot to the team," Hamburg said. "He'll have some opportunities to jump in behind the plate with the four-game weekend. I like how we look behind the plate with these two guys. They work well together and have great personalities, and they work really well with the pitching staff. They care about their craft." 

Senior outfielder Brendan Hueth is another vital cog for the Hawks. He was named to the 2019 Atlantic 10 All-Conference second team after hitting .308 with seven doubles and 18 RBIs. He ran into some bad luck at the plate last year and hit just .242. 

On the mound, junior left-hander Luke Zimmerman (Marple Newtown), senior righty Ryan Devine, fifth-year right-hander Hayden Seig, and senior righty Ian McCole figure to open the season in the rotation. 

"We have probably seven or eight guys right now that could be in the mix," Hamburg said. "We all feel good about these guys, and I think they are going to give us a chance to win every start." 

McCole, a first-year transfer from Misericordia, was recognized as First Team All-Region and MAC Pitcher of the Year while helping lead the Cougars to the Division III College World Series in 2018. He left the program with a 20-2 record to go along with a 2.97 ERA. 

Zimmerman pitched well for the Hawks last season, picking up 19 strikeouts over 15 innings while posting a 3.60 ERA. Devine brings with him a career ERA of 4.22 over 89 2/3 innings while Seig is looking to bounce back after making just one appearance last year. 

"Hayden [Seig] is the dark horse here," Hamburg said. "His pitch repertoire, and his command, and what he's dong on the mound ... we are just happy to see it." 

The Hawks posted a 5.68 team ERA last year to go along with a 1.60 WHIP. Hamburg knows those numbers have to improve for the club to compete in the Atlantic 10. 

"I really like the depth of our staff, and I think that we have a solid group of guys," Hamburg said. "I think we'll see some other clubs that have more power than we do on the mound, but I think we have more power here now than we have ever had collectively." 

Saint Joseph's will open the season on March 13 with a contest at George Washington before opening the home portion of their schedule on March 19 with a game against the University of Connecticut. 
Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

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