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Rowan's Baseball Team Gets Season Underway on Wednesday vs. Cabrini

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The Rowan baseball team opens its 2021 season after a long year of waiting and wondering what could've been if the 2020 campaign was completed. The Profs won their first six games, and were ranked 14th in the nation, when the pandemic caused the season to abruptly come to a halt.

Rowan lost some experienced and accomplished players from that squad but still welcomes back 13 seniors or fifth-year players, and is only missing one starter among the position players. The Profs head into their first game of the year on March 17 ranked ninth in the nation in the Poll.
Head coach Mike Dickson, who owns a 151-74 record in six years at Rowan, gives some insight into what to look for with the Profs in 2021.
How has the team responded to dealing with the past year?
It's been a year of constant resiliency and understanding that there are going to be things that are coming up and there could be COVID issues during the season. But I think the team that can work through that will be the best team.
You graduated some key players but you still seem to have a strong nucleus plus a solid group of newcomers and transfers.  Which of them do you expect to make an impact?
I would say definitely Connor Metelski (RHP), a transfer from UMass-Lowell, is going to be a top guy in the rotation. Jason O'Neill (RHP), a transfer from Rowan College of South Jersey, won a national championship there and should definitely help us out in the bullpen. Ryan Murphy is a two-way player, who transferred from Rowan College Gloucester County, and he will help us both on the mound and in the outfield.
We return almost every one of our position players, so I think the nucleus is there with the players from last year. And by adding a couple of arms to replace those we lost will definitely help.
You rely a great deal on your captains (Alex Kokos, Jared Marks, Drew Ryback, Nick Schooley). How valuable have they been in what has obviously been an unusual year?
They've been awesome for our team. Each one of them has done a tremendous job in the classroom and they've done a tremendous job leading our team. Alex is now going to be a three-year captain. They help everyone buy into what we're talking about and get everyone on board moving in the right direction.
Talk about the offense and who you expect to be the leaders.
Alex Kokos obviously has been a mainstay in the middle of our lineup and I expect him to continue to producing as he has in his career. Ryan McIsaac(3B) had a little bit of a slow start last year but he put up tremendous numbers in junior college. Trip McCaffrey is a Division I transfer (UMass-Lowell) in centerfield and we've got  Nick Schooley at shortstop.
I think Eric DiDomenico is poised to have a good year in his first year starting at first base so I think our offense is balanced and I think we can beat you in a couple of different ways. It's a matter of the seniors and usually what it comes down to is your senior leadership. Kokos has played in three regionals, he's won an NJAC Tournament, he's won an NJAC regular-season (title) as has Schooley. Those players have played in some big games and they understand what it takes.
How about the pitching?
We return our number-one Drew Ryback, who was 3-0 on the season when it ended so he should be right there at the top of the rotation. We have Connor Metelski and Eli Atiya, who showed promising things as a freshman last year. Also, Donald Zellman, a junior county JCC last year and Thomas Sullivan – and that should be our rotation going into the year.
Out of our bullpen I think you'll see a variety of different arms as Zach Listro is back for his fifth year. He gives us some stability and can come in at any time. Jason O'Neill and Ryan Murphy would be towards the back end of the bullpen and they're both hard throwing righthanders. Patrick Sudnikovich looks like he'll be our lefthander out of the bullpen.
Who's in your starting lineup?
Ryan McIsaac at third base, platooned by Victor Cruz, who can play multiple positions in the infield and outfield. Nick Schooley at shortstop, backed up by Chris Curcio, who can also help in the bullpen. Alex Kokos at second base and Eric DiDomenico will play first base. Jared Marks is the catcher and Mike Manganella is the DH. In left field, it'll be Ryan Mostrangeli, with Trip McCaffrey in center and Jason Bobiak or Ryan Murphy in right field.
What do you expect defensively from the Profs?
I think we have a very strong good defensive team. Kokos and Schooley have been starters for the past few years and McIsaac is a very good defensive third baseman, while Marks is an outstanding defensive catcher. And really all four of our outfielders give us some flexibility in where each one of them can play left, center or right.
With the goals annually being to compete for conference and national titles, what are the keys to having a successful season?
Honestly our keys to reaching our goals is to one, stay healthy. And two, the depth of our pitching has got to come through. Obviously, we're going to be relying on some newer pitchers. We've had depth throughout the last few years, and with losing some seniors from last year, a couple of the sophomores are going to have to step up into some big roles.