The Saint Xavier men’s baseball is a few months away from the start of the 2017-2018 season. The team finished last season just short of winning the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletics Conference (CCAC) championship game. The Cougars had to settle for runner-up after falling to No. 3 seed, Saint Ambrose University (Iowa).
Rocco Mossuto will be entering his fourth season as SXU head coach. It is fair to say that in his relatively short tenure, he’s managed to build a successful program. However, it is important to remember that he’s coaching student-athletes.
These players are students and like students, they graduate. For the upcoming season, Mossuto will have to cover the absences of six departing seniors. Their absences mean that other players on the team have to step up.
Whether they be incoming freshman or players that were there last season, it is an opportunity to take advantage and earn more playing time.
On the bright side, Coach Mossuto and his staff will still be able to count on players that made a significant contribution to the team’s success last season.
Not only that, but the players are a mix of young and old, relatively speaking, as well as ranging from pitchers to everyday players.
One such name is first basemen, and criminal justice major, Ben Zordani. Last season was Zordani’s freshman year and his first season with Saint Xavier.
He certainly made his presence known. He played in 52 of the team’s 57 games, including 51 as a starter. Zordani finished last season with some very impressive stats.
Aside from starting a majority of SXU’s games, Zordani had a batting average of .326 and an on-base percentage (obp) of .377, which was the fifth highest on the team. Defensively, he was no slouch either.
He committed only one error on the season which amount to a fielding percentage of .998. It was the highest percentage among those who played at least 50 games. Zordani’s play was rewarded as he was one of the recipients of the CCAC Rawlings Gold Glove team.
We’d be remiss if we did not mention the impact that freshman, Matt Monahan, had on the team. In his inaugural season with the Cougars, the freshman infielder led the team in nearly all offensive categories.
Despite a successful season, both collectively and individually, Zordani was not going to rest on his laurels. During the summer, Zordani played in the Midwestern Collegiate League for the Joliet Admirals.
He played second base with the Admirals and hit .298 on the season. His performances with the Joliet Admirals earned him a spot in the MCL-All League Team.
Monahan finished the season with a slash line of .393 (BA)/5 (HR)/45 (RBIs), all team-leading stats. To go along with that, he also had a team-leading .632 slugging percentage and .461 on-base percentage, totaling a 1.093 OPS (on-base + slugging) which is outstanding.
He led the team in other offensive categories such as runs scored (52), hits, (79), and total bases (127). His season was so impressive that he was named CCAC’s Freshman of the Year as well as being selected in the 2nd team All-Conference.
On the pitching side of things, Matthew McKenzie had a solid junior year. While the 4.17 earned run average (ERA) is a bit high, he did have 38 strikeouts to only 13 walks. He had the second highest strikeouts and second lowest walks on the team. He threw 69 innings in 16 games, which included five shutouts.
McKenzie, like Zordani, was also another recipient of the CCAC Rawlings Gold Glove Team. Along with that accolade, McKenzie was also named in the 2017 American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) Rawlings/NAIA Gold Glove Team. He was the pitcher selected on the nine-member team. It marked the first time Saint Xavier had one of their own selected to the team since 2007.
Despite not winning last season’s championship game, Coach Mossuto has had his team playing some very good baseball.
During his tenure, the team has reached consecutive championship games, including winning the tournament back on the 2015-2016 season. There are a lot of reasons to be excited for the upcoming season.They have some good, impactful players coming back who are only going to get better. A number of their players received recognition for their performances all season.
Departing senior, Tyler Hebel, was named in the 1st team All-Conference. Saint Xavier was heavily represented in the CCAC All-Academic award as well as having three players, one of them being Matthew McKenzie, awarded Daktronics-NAIA Student-Athletes.
To read the full article, keep an eye out for “The Bell” magazine, which will drop on December 1st.