The typical off-season is usually a time in sports where there is no official competition, a recess if you will.
However, at Wilkes University, this off-season is anything but typical.
The Colonel baseball team has fourteen approved NCAA regulated practices this fall that will be used for intra-squad scrimmages and practices.
Head Coach Joe Folek will host these fall baseball practice sessions three to four times a week, where he will bring the team to compete against one another to give them an outlook of things to come for the spring. Folek believes it gives the newer guys something to work and know what to expect once spring hits.
Senior closer Mark Siebel notes how well some of his teammates have been playing during these fall ball sessions. For example, he believes his fellow senior teammate Michael Olerta has made significant strides to improve his game, including losing weight.
“Mike ‘Snail’ Olerta has lost 30 lbs in the offseason and is going to be competing for starting first base and third base as well as designated hitter,” Siebel, a business administration major, said. “His hitting, running and everything has really improved since last year. He’s really impressed me so far.”
Another Colonel who has been playing well is A.J. Mihaly, according to center fielder Angelo Trento.
“He’s going to be one of our starting pitchers and a stud center fielder,” Trento, junior crimminology major, said. “He’s already hit three or four home runs already.”
With the loss of last year’s seniors, Al Clocker and Rich Cosgrove, and also last year’s batting champion Angus Neary — who left school to attend the police academy — this year’s team hopes to focus on less power hitting and more situational play to score runs.
“We’re missing a lot with Angus, but we are returning a lot of bats,” Siebel said. “We’re going to have to rely on base-to-base hits, hitting the gap and your occasional homerun here and there.”
“The offense has changed to more of team effort,” Trento said. “Instead of just relying on the number three and four guys to hit, we have to depend the entire lineup, one through nine.”
Not only have the returners have been looking good, but many of the new players, especially the freshman have brought their a-game.
“There are five or six really good freshmen pitchers who have seen lot of innings already,” Siebel said. “It’s always interesting to see who’s going to replace us when we’re gone.”
When asked about what could be improved from years past, Trento responded without hesitation that egos were a major problem and will not be tolerated if the Colonels are going to be a winning team.
“Team chemistry 100 percent,” Trento said. “There were a lot of egos on the team last year, none of that cramp now. We could have been one of the best teams in the country if we could have gotten our chemistry down.”
Trento and Siebel are both taking the measures to improve team dynamic. The two are big on bonding especially with a focus on looking out for the younger guys on the team.
“This year, the seniors of the team will adopt one freshman to mentor,” Siebel said. “We’re going to have an initiation night to show the freshmen what it’s like to be a Colonel. It’s really going to bring everyone together, but it’s nothing illegal so don’t worry.”
Leadership is not only limited to seniors who are stepping up, but also Trento who is only a junior and is looking out for all the new players on the team.
“I like to consider myself the personality of the team,” Trento said. “I’m the one you’ll hear when you show up to practices. I’m going to take all the freshmen under my wing and answer any questions like where do I go, how do I do this? I know my freshman year, I liked when upperclassmen helped me out.”
With the loss of egos and a balancing acting to help bring the team closer, the Colonel baseball team looks to achieve great success this coming spring.
“We dont have any real big super stars so its going to have to be everyone coming together for us to win this spring,” Siebel said.
“We’re all together with the same goal to make the playoffs, and we’re going to make it happen this year,” Trento said.