Rams swing for a triple: title three-peat
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The two-time back-to-back champions are officially back in t-minus nine days and they are looking to defend their title, again.
That is, their third Great Northeast Athletic Conference Athletic Conference (GNAC) Championship title.
Even though the 2017 40-game regular season starts on March 10, the quest for the “three peat” as Suffolk University’s first base player Greg Speliotis puts it himself, starts all year round.
The team has been practicing since the fall, prior to fall ball and weight lifted throughout the winter. They have been holding official practices since late January. Practices are held from Mondays through Fridays from 12 to 4 p.m. at an indoor facility, the Rams Athletic Complex in North Reading, Mass. Senior BJ Neil, who plays second base, added that the team holds practices as late as 9 p.m. until past midnight on some weekends and conditions early on both Friday and Saturday mornings.
“[We’re] having a purpose everyday to be in the weight room and on the field,” said Speliotis in a recent interview with The Suffolk Journal.
With the warm weather in the past week, the team has been able to practice and play mock games outdoors to prepare for the season.
“Overall practice has been going well since the fall as the team has put in a lot of work over the course of the off-season with their strength and conditioning and commitment to improve,” said Baseball Head Coach Anthony Del Prete in an interview with The Journal on Sunday night.
The Rams will travel to Auburndale, FL and open the first nine games of the season in the Florida Invitational from March 10-18. Del Prete said he is excited for the season as a third-year head coach and the Florida trip will help the team on “many levels” as well as give the team the opportunity to “compete against high level competition from New England and also nationally.”
“Our strength of schedule in Florida with four of our first nine games against teams ranked nationally will be a good test for us,” said Del Prete. “It gives us a chance right out of the gates to see where we stack up and what we need to work on as we prepare for our conference schedule.”
Speliotis thinks the “busy schedule” in Florida, as the team will play back-to-back games, will help the team prepare for the upcoming season for when the team travels back to Boston. In the first couple of games especially, the redshirt junior said that the games are played with a “high intensity.”
“We face four of the top 25 teams in the nation, so we have no choice, but to come with a high intensity and stay focused,” said Speliotis, an entrepreneurship major and management minor.
Besides being given the opportunity to play competitive baseball against some of the nation’s best teams like St. John Fisher College, Ramapo College, Montclair State University and Dickinson College, the Florida Invitational is a trip the team looks forward to every year.
“Playing in Florida is great, because it’s the first time that we all come together for more than just practice,” said Neil in recent interview with The Journal. “No matter how close you are coming into the trip, the team always seem to leave Florida closer than before.”
On the team bonding aspect of the trip, Speliotis said: “It is where everyone comes together. It’s basically where we form our team, because we are with each other 24/7. Everybody has the same focus down there and is on the same page.”
As of last spring, the Suffolk Athletics department announced that the baseball team leads the GNAC in numbers– overall wins, GNAC wins, GNAC tournament wins and games, GNAC championships and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) appearances.
In the GNAC pre-season coaches’ poll released last Monday, the Rams were selected as the league favorite to win the 2017 GNAC Championship.
“Being picked as the [GNAC] pre-season favorite to win the conference is a great honor and I feel like the team has been working to prepare to handle the expectations laid out for them,” said Del Prete.
Neil, a public relations major who will be heading into his fourth and final year with the team, also attributes the program’s success to the senior leadership playing a “big role” toward their winning culture.
“Since taking over, [Del Prete] has done a great job of creating a winning culture here, including bringing back multiple [graduate] assistants who played here and understand our team’s culture,” said Neil.
Del Prete owes the program success to the student-athletes themselves.
On the academic and athletic success of his players, Del Prete said that: “I think a big reason for our success over the years has been the quality of character the members of our team possess and how committed they are and motivated to improve and reach their potential.
“While we have had a lot of success on the field, I’m most proud of how many of our players have developed into leaders both on and off the field and how well they have represented our program and Suffolk,” said Del Prete. “I feel fortunate to be able to work with a group of players who are as committed to succeed and to have such strong leadership from our captains.”
Even though the Rams finished with a 33-13 record last season, they think they can do better heading into the upcoming season. Whether it’d be at practices, games or in the weight room, Del Prete wants the team to play and compete at a “high level each and everyday.”
“You can control the effort you put in and if you focus on taking care of the little details then good things will happen,” said Del Prete. “If we take care of things on our end we should be in good shape as the season goes along given the quality of athletes we have on roster and depth in the important positions.”
“We had a lot of big losses last year, but a lot of people have to step up,” said Speliotis. However, he thinks the team is “well” prepared for the season and the leadership has exceeded its expectations.
Toward winning more games, Speliotis said the team needs to focus and practice how we play.
“We have made sure we have a purpose and a more intense focus level,” said Speliotis.
Neil adds the team has been talking about paying attention to detail at practices to translate their work into playing consistent baseball and winning games.
“We make sure we do everything the right way, even when it is tedious, so that we know we will do it right when it its time to do it in the game,” said Neil.
If the Rams “take care of business” on working toward their third back-to-back GNAC Championship win, Neil knows the senior class has the chance to graduate Suffolk as “one of the most successful senior classes in Suffolk Athletics.”
“I fully believe that everybody on the team has the goal of winning the GNAC and making a run in [the] regionals,” said Neil. “Every time I walk on the field, my goal is to help my team win.”