By: Nick Raponi
Summer has come and gone. Tryouts have wrapped up. Rosters have been finalized and another Ryerson baseball season is set to begin.
In their debut season a year ago, the Rams saw that breaking into the OUA is no easy task, finishing with a 3-19 record. Now the team will open the new season hungry to show the rest of the league that they can compete.
“The players and coaches understand that it is going to take time to cement that foundation for a winning program, but making improvements year-over-year is part of that process,” said head coach Ben Rich. “As such, the players know we are expecting more of them, and that some of last years mistakes will not be acceptable this year. We need to be progressing or else we won’t reach our goals.”
The Rams will benefit greatly from having a season under their belt, as they can now look to veterans such as infielder Josh Lund and pitcher Bryan Vardzel to step up and lead the team.
“Although we were technically all rookies last season, some of the older guys took prominent roles as leaders,” said Vardzel, the team’s ace. “I believe we now have a solid core of veterans.”
The Rams have a lot to look forward to. Vardzel, who was named an OUA All-Star last season, led the league with eight starts, posting a 1-5 record with a 4.15 ERA. Lund also had a great rookie campaign for the Rams, finishing fourth in the OUA with a .379 batting average.
“The groundwork has been laid by the coaching staff and the returning players, and now we are really going to get that chance to show what we are made of,” Rich said.
Along with the veterans who will be coming back for the upcoming season, the Rams have picked up a few new faces to help solidify themselves as a good ball club. Incoming freshman Adrian Stellato will be getting some starts at third base while Justin Singh, Matt Papania, and Jared Armstrong will all see time in the outfield.
“I can say that we [the coaching staff] were pleased with the talent of the players who came out [to the tryouts]. We added some skilled infielders and outfielders [that] can also handle the bat,” Rich said. “And there are some new pitchers who will be effective, have good tools, and will project well over the coming years.”
The players are realistic. This early into the program, expectations need to be modest as players adjust to the new competition. Improving year after year is their focus for now.
“We all play the game to win, so of course I have high expectations of the team,” said Vardzel. “At the same time, I just want to see this team develop and get stronger as the year progresses. I hope we can improve on our record from last year … and that may just get us a spot in the playoffs.”
The Rams play their home opener at Howard Talbot Park on Saturday, Sept. 6 at noon, when they will square off against the Queen’s Gaels in a doubleheader. Vardzel, looking to start the season off with a win, will take the mound for the Rams in the first game.