It takes a certain mentality to win a championship, but winning four years in a row requires a special bond between players. Suffolk University’s baseball team has built that chemistry. The defending Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) champions have experienced nothing but success over the past four years under head coach Anthony Del Prete. The skipper has now just wrapped up his fourth season calling the shots for the Rams.
“I’m very proud of what this group has been able to accomplish and the level they have elevated our program,” said Del Prete in a recent interview with The Suffolk Journal.
The core group that made it all happen consisted of captains Brady Chant, Greg Speliotis, Mark Fusco and Worth Walrod, Seth Coiley and Ryan Pordes, all of which have recently graduated from the university.
Once again, the GNAC championship game was a nail-biter as Suffolk matched up against St. Joseph’s Maine. The game started with three scoreless innings but eventually broke out when Suffolk scored four runs in the fourth inning. From there, St. Joseph’s answered back with three runs of their own in the fifth inning, making it a 4-3 game up until the seventh inning where Suffolk scored two more runs. In the eighth inning, the Monks cut the deficit to one run but ultimately came up short, as the Rams won 6-5.
Fusco dealt on the mound for seven innings, giving up three runs on eight hits while striking out three batters. The rest of the Monks runs came off Rams pitcher Rich Giandrea, who let up two runs off one hit. For St. Joseph’s, Aaron Hall took the mound and gave up four runs, before relief pitching came in and gave up another two runs.
Key players in the game were Suffolk infielder Will Hopkins, who went 2-3 with a double and RBI, and Jake Flax; who capped off the game with a save for the Rams.
It was a rewarding year for the team, and many players stepped up when needed. Chant finished the year with a .349 batting average, and led the league with six home runs. Fusco also got the job done, as he finished the year with six wins on the mound and a 3.18 ERA, making him a top five player in each of those categories. Overall, the team finished with a 25-19 record (13-1 in GNAC) and led their conference in various categories that included runs, batting average, on base percentage and other offensive statistics.
There is no question that championships do not come easy, and going into their freshman year, Suffolk had not won a championship in five years.
“Freshman year was the toughest one since the team had not won in five years. We had to get the monkey off our back,” said Chant in an interview with The Journal.
For this group of players, freshman year was all about getting more comfortable within the roster, while learning from the upperclassmen who were on the team at the time.
“We looked at the seniors our freshman year and realized the culture of the team was based off everybody working together and helping each other,” said Fusco in an interview with The Journal.
Chant explained that when you have a team that is willing to get better together, a lot could be accomplished in little time. This group of players carried that same attitude and looked to pass it on this past month as they each completed their final season.
“Senior year was a year in which we took on leadership roles for the younger guys,” said Chant.
In the aspect of their overall development, each player came a very long way from where they started freshman year.
“I started to get in the weight room more often and dedicated my time to school and baseball,” said Speliotis in an interview with The Journal.
Other teammates committed more time outside of practice to perfect their craft. The team got better together, and they enjoyed doing it. Fusco said that working collaboratively is what set them apart from other teams.
“It is huge to have team chemistry,” said Fusco.
Chant also talked out how being a good teammate is something that most people can and will do, but building a bond like this team did is rare.
“These guys will be my best friends for the rest of my life,” said Chant.
The connection that each player had with one another undoubtedly helped the team prevail, but having good players is only one of the many attributes a baseball team needs to win multiple championships. The relationship that the players built with head coach Del Prete over their college careers is one that goes much deeper than baseball.
“I feel my ability to trust the players both on and off the field has created a unique bond. I am proud of how our players have not only matured as people, but as ballplayers,” said Del Prete.
So much winning sometimes comes with overconfidence, but not for this group of players. No championship came easy; it took hard work and dedication and even then, each championship game was decided by two runs or less.
“Regardless of how much we were winning, we always had a chip on our shoulder, trying to prove everyone wrong,” said Speliotis.
It’s safe to say that they did prove everybody wrong, and what these outgoing seniors accomplished within their time at Suffolk may never be seen again.
Considering the success that this group had, it is hard to look into the future of this program and not feel good about it. Each one of them has left an impact on Suffolk’s baseball program that includes passing down their wisdom to incoming freshman and other lowerclassmen.
“Players win championships,” said Del Prete, and there is no question that these players will be missed.