Knights junior first baseman Anthony Mazzella is recognized inside the East Coast Conference as a slugger and the acknowledgement comes with a catch, as head coach Tom Sowinski alluded to earlier this month.
Sowinski said Mazzella emerged in the second half of last season as a player capable of winning individual awards, but also noted that teams are aware of his impact in the lineup and will make adjustments.
C.W. Post held Mazzella – who leads the team in batting average, .312, home runs, 2 and RBIs, 10 – to one hit in seven at-bats in the March 24-25 three-game series. But the first baseman was not the only Knight who struggled at the plate in the weekend set.
After opening their conference season with six runs against Molloy College on March 21, – in a game that was suspended after 11 innings because of darkness – the Knights managed just three runs in the three-game series against C.W. Post.
“I thought my approach that I have had all year took a backseat,” Mazzella said. “He [Post pitcher Paul Bischoff on March 25] was throwing soft and away to me the entire game and I just got too anxious and let my emotions get the best of me. Instead of rationally going about my at-bats, I was going about them emotionally because I was frustrated because they weren’t giving me anything to hit.”
The conference rival completed the sweep of the Knights on March 25, 2-1, despite the fact that QC senior Kyle Contino gave the team eight innings.
“I wouldn’t say they were wasted opportunities, but we definitely could have taken advantage of how well they did,” said Mazzella, referring to the efforts of the Knights’ pitching staff in the series, who only surrendered eight runs in the three games.
The Knights tallied only 10 hits in the series, but there is hope for a turnaround. Junior Warren Kelly, who led the team last year with a .281 average, has been moved back to third in the batting order after spending the first nine games in different spots. Kelly is expected to drive in runs and get on base for Mazzella. Kelly is batting .275 and has a .392 on-base percentage so far.
“Now that I’m in the three-hole, it’s a completely different approach,” Kelly said. “I’m seeing a lot more off-speed pitches and I have a lot more RBI opportunities.”
The Knights’ next conference game is set for March 27 against Mercy College, who are 2-2 in the ECC.
“If we go in there and play our game and control what we can control and not worry about the outcome, then we will be fine,” Mazzella said.
Sowinksi has said that he expects the Knights to make the playoffs this season after finishing in last place in 2011. Despite starting the season 5-9 overall and 0-3 in the ECC, his players have bought into the idea.
“We are as good as any team in the conference, but when we try and do too much and get ahead of ourselves is when we falter,” Mazzella said. “The conference is up for grabs, there are no dominant teams.”