NEWPORT, R.I. - Salve Regina University baseball lost its first game in 2017, but the Seahawks are off to their best start ever (21-4) through the first 25 games. The Seahawks, defending Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) champions and undefeated in league play in 2017, now appear prominently in two national polls while garnering first-place votes in a regional poll.
"We have made some huge strides forward on the national stage as a baseball program this year," fourth-year head coach Eric Cirella remarked. "It's exciting to see because of all the behind the scenes work that has gone into building this up - by coaches, players, administrators, and alumni/friends - over the course of the last five years."
The Seahawks earned their first-ever national ranking in March with their record at 10-2; they have maintained, or rather climbed, the rankings the next three weeks while going 11-2 over that stretch.
Currently, Salve Regina ranks No. 17 in the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) poll, steadily rising from No. 26, No. 23, and No. 21. The Seahawks appear in the D3Baseball.com Top 25 for the first time as well, landing at No. 21 after increasingly receiving votes. In the New England Intercollegiate Baseball Association (NEIBA) poll, Salve Regina gets closer to the top spot (held by Tufts University since the beginning of the season) and receives two of the six first-place votes (46-43).
"We have certainly faced some adversity this season with injuries and a difficult schedule, and have found a way time and time again to win baseball games. To that I have to tip my cap to the players for being resilient and having grit."
Seahawk pitching ranks first in the NCAA Division III statistics with fewest hits allowed per nine innings (6.75 hits per nine innings | 204.0 IP | 153 hits).
"But at the same time we know that we have to continue to work on our craft and get better everyday. We are playing a fun style of baseball. Our pitchers have done a great job challenging hitters and not beating ourselves. Our defense has been solid. And our offense, though less explosive than years past, has done enough each game and they have done it in a number of different ways."
Salve Regina baseball players have a tremendous role model in their head coach who was a three-time CoSIDA Academic All-America® during his playing career as a Seahawk (2002-05). Recently, a pitcher, infielder, and outfielder were nominated from the current squad - senior Cory Poplawski (Syracuse, N.Y.) and sophomores Colton Eremian (Boca Raton, Fla.) and Zack Smith (New Canaan, Conn.).
"I look back on some of our talks and meetings earlier in the year where we preached attention to detail and competing and being mentally tough, and I think it sunk in with a lot of guys. Just being 'bought in' to what we are doing was a big point of emphasis. We needed to have an identity as a team and we are starting to get that concept. I think that is what makes being around the guys so much fun for me and the coaching staff."
"Again - I am ecstatic with the first 25 games. But we need to continue to grind and play good baseball. A ranked team is vulnerable when they think they have earned something. It won't get us calls from umpires, and it won't get us any luck - we have to continue to create that on our own. I want a bunch of guys who aren't happy with being ranked, or who want to get ranked higher; guys have to show up every day with a mentality that we have something to prove. Every team we play knows our record and is gunning for us. Time will tell if we are able to maintain this level we are playing at currently. I hope we are just getting started and the next 25 games are even more exciting for the team and for the program as a whole."