Marywood Baseball 2023 preview


Photo credit/ Jason Ardan

Junior Captain Danny Becker is looking to help the Pacers build off a 22-15 season.

It’s time for Pacers baseball again. With their debut game coming up in early March, it’s time to preview this 2023 Pacers ball club. Last season, the Pacers went 22-15, their best record in a decade and head coach Jason Thiel’s most successful season as skipper for the Pacers. Thiel emphasized the importance of having a good culture throughout his ball club.

“I think it’s a culture thing,” stated Thiel. “For these guys, it was a great year. They learned what it takes to win.”

Thiel isn’t the only person in the Pacers’ locker room who sees the significance of culture for a team. Senior captain Vinny D’Auria, who is in his fifth season with Thiel, can agree with the importance of culture in the locker room.

“We are a very tight knit group,” D’Auria said. “We are a competitive group of guys and we’re always pulling for the name on the front of the jersey instead of the name on the back.”

Thiel has seen that culture remain with the addition of incoming freshmen. Now that Thiel has built the foundation for the culture, he thinks the mindset has changed.

“The guys put a lot of effort in during the offseason,” said Thiel. “The freshmen who came in are very good. So now for us, it’s expecting to win. It’s no longer, ‘let’s go out there and compete and try to win.’ Now, it’s the mindset that we expect to win.”

Thiel believes his team’s greatest strength is pitching, “I think it’s our pitching, which is a flip for us,” Thiel said. “Normally, the strength for us has been scoring runs. I think towards the middle of the year last season, our pitching really carried us. We have a lot of veterans. It takes time to really build up a pitching staff, and those veterans, both in the bullpen and rotation, are key.”

Thiel recognizes no ball club is perfect, noting that replacing a few hitters who’ve graduated is a must.

“We have to replace some big bats in our lineup,” Thiel noted. “I think we need to change the way we do things, the way we score runs. So, for us, it’s going to be a challenge, not just relying on a few guys who knock in a lot of runs. Now, it’s going to be how can we produce and how can we play small ball.”

Despite the Pacers’ 22-15 record last season, when Atlantic East Conference play rolled around, the team had limited success, only being victorious in six of the 18 matchups. Thiel, however, sees success in the Pacers’ future conference bouts.

“We lost four games by one or two runs, that we blew or couldn’t get that late hit, so we’re not far off,” Thiel explained. “It’s just doing the small things.”

Thiel believes his team’s pitching will benefit its conference play this season.

“The conference has turned into a pitching conference,” Thiel said. “It used to be that you had to outslug your opponent and now every team has three legitimate starters.”

The Pacers have 41 players on their roster, which Thiel feels is a huge advantage.

“Half of those are arms, which is huge for us,” he noted. “You play four, five, six games per week, so you need depth. We have a lot more depth than we’ve ever had and [are] a lot more talented than we’ve ever been. Between injuries, soreness and long weeks, that depth is going to help, especially as we get towards the end of the year.”

The depth has improved drastically since last season. The freshman class makes up about a quarter of the Pacers’ roster this season. Despite the lack of experience at the collegiate level, Thiel has high expectations for the freshmen on the roster.

“We expect a lot, with this being probably our most talented group we’ve had here,” Thiel said. “They’ve joined the program in shape and with great attitudes. They’re good kids and they work hard in and out of the classroom. There’s guys on the mound and in the field who are going to help out right away. I don’t think we’ll realize how good this freshmen group is. We’ll probably look back in a couple of years and think that this group is the big building foundation going forward.”

Thiel only has one goal for this season: get into the playoffs.

“Once you get in, of the four teams, it doesn’t matter what spot you sit in,” Thiel emphasized. “I think we have the pitching to compete. We want to be one of the four teams remaining and say we have a shot.”

D’Auria agreed with Thiel’s primary goal of making the playoffs. D’Auria has another milestone he’d like to lead his team to achieve.

“Another goal would be to break our program win record, which we tied last year with 22,” D’Auria said.

Marywood kicks its season off with a doubleheader against Stevenson University on Saturday Mar. 4 beginning at noon.

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