2019 SEASON REVIEW
If there’s one thing that transcends divisions in college sports, it’s experience, and the Merrimack baseball program has plenty of that ahead of their first season as a Division I program.
“From what we’ve seen every day, we really like the position we’re in,” said head coach Nick Barese. “The things we thought would big positives for us look like they will be big positives for us. For us, we have a lot of returning players coming back in the rotation and positionally, especially on the left side of the infield, and if one thing can translate it’s definitely experience.”
The Warriors are coming off a season where they went 28-20 and finished as the runner-up in the Northeast-10, falling to Franklin Pierce in the NE10 Championship. It marked the second year in a row the Warriors advanced to the championship after they beat New Haven for the title in 2018.
When the season ended, the program saw Joey Porricelli named NCBWA All-American and Porricelli and Cam Monagle (a graduating senior) were named All-Region by several outlets, including ABCA and Rawlings.
“We’re going to follow the lead of our experienced guys,” Barese said. “We have key returners in key spots and we have several guys who are two or three-year starters.”
Seven players earned all-conference selections in 2019, with Joey Porricelli and Cam Monagle leading the way with first-team selections. The duo also received three all-region nods apiece, with Porricelli becoming the second All-American of Barese’s tenure and 10th in school history. He was also crowned NE10 Co-Player of the Year.
Nick Barese enters his ninth year at Merrimack and his sixth as head baseball coach, and the program has never shined brighter than in his five seasons as head coach. He owns a 128-98 career record (.566) entering the 2020 season.
Barese’s Warriors won 28 games in total last season, moving the head coach into second place in school history in career victories. The 128 games that Merrimack has won over the last five years is the most of any five years in Merrimack history.
Barese capped off a run of four straight postseason appearances to start his tenure with an NE10 Championship in 2018, and the conference’s automatic bid to the 2018 NCAA Tournament. It marked the program’s first conference title of any kind since 1999 and the first tournament crown since 1996. The victory delivered the program its fourth NE10 Tournament title overall.
Cody Kauffman returns to the program as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator.
Kauffman arrived on campus after spending the past two seasons as the associate head coach and recruiting coordinator at Franklin Pierce University, where the Ravens amassed 66 wins over his two years including an NCAA Tournament appearance. While at Franklin Pierce, Kauffman was responsible for new player recruitment and coordinating budgets for the baseball program while also assisting with coaching hitters and catchers during practice.
Ryan Sullivan rounds out the staff in his first season as a volunteer assistant coach.
The Warriors return several key starting pitchers, including Vin Zappulla, Riley Sorenson and Tim Kalantzakos.
Zappulla started 12 games last season and posted a 7-1 record with a 2.45 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP, striking out 64 batters in 77 innings.
Kalantzakos started 12 games and finished 7-1 with a 1.98 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP. He struck out 63 hitters in 84 innings and walked just 24 while also throwing one complete game.
Sorenson made 16 appearances and made four starts; he finished the season with a 4.06 ERA and 1.47 WHIP.
Cedric Gilette (5.96 ERA) saw time in the bullpen last season as a true freshman and he also returns.
Barese is also excited by the return of Daniel Amidon, a grad student who missed all of last season with an injury; in 2018, he led the program with 11.25 strikeouts per nine innings.
Barese also said that the Warriors should be able to handle their pitching staff differently with conference series happening on weekends.
“I think we’ll be able to get through the season with four starters,” Barese said. “The setup is different than what we dealt with in D-II. With our midweek games all being non-conference now, you really can set things up for those weekend series. It should help us get into a routine and keep everyone fresh.”
THE POSITIONAL PLAYERS
When looking at Merrimack’s returning positional players, everyone will notice senior Joey Porricelli, who by the time it’s all said and done, will rank as one of the best offensive players in the history of the program.
Last season as a junior, he led the team with a .317 batting average while also hitting a team-high nine home runs and 41 RBI. On top of that, he led the team with 33 stolen bases (in 38 attempts).
“He should hold about every offensive record in our program,” Barese said.
Nick Shumski also returns as a Division-II Gold Glove Award winner last season; he also hit .297 and stole 17 bases, which was second-best on the team.
Thomas Joyce starts at first base; he finished second on the team with a .306 batting average last season.
“He’s been so consistent,” Barese said. “He’s a good middle-of-the-order bat and he’s played the best defensive first base I have ever coached.”
Kurtis Standnicki will return as the team’s starting catcher after starting 32 games last season as a true freshman.
In the outfield, Michael Jamele will start in centerfield and Michael Golankiewicz will start in one of the corner outfield spots after starting as a true freshman last season.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS
The Warriors will have a full NEC schedule in their first season as a league member, and begin non-conference play with a four-game series at Oral Roberts this weekend (Friday at 4 p.m.). Other games on the non-conference slate include a four-game set with Michigan State (in Greenville, S.C.) and series at Wofford, William and Mary and Seattle University. Non-conference single games include visits to Maine and Northeastern.
“When we were D-II, we know we would be in Myrtle Beach in February and then we would spend our spring break in Florida,” Barese said. “Now it’s all weekend trips, so we’ll be getting on planes on Thursday and them flying back and the guys will be in class on Monday.
“I like it. I think it generates more of that business-trip atmosphere.”
Barese said he set out to put together the first Division I schedule as soon as the move to D-I was announced in the fall of 2018. The NCAA caps schedules at 56 games, and the Warriors will have in the high-40’s.
“You look at some of our competition, and Oral Roberts is a great team,” Barese said. “They won their conference two years ago and were back in the conference championship last year. Wofford might be the best team we play all year. They’re not the name of Michigan State, but they’re really good programs.”
Merrimack opens the season on Friday and will play its first home game as a D-I program on March 27 at 3 p.m., opening a three-game series with Central Connecticut.