Duffy: Pitching, defense & health needed to win championship

“The Pennant Will Rise” was the phrase etched onto t-shirts and hoodies for the Mets’ being crowned National League Champions. For the marathon season ahead, Jim Duffy, Manhattan Jaspers baseball head coach, said “Pitching, Defense and Staying Healthy” is what’s going to earn his team’s way to success in ’16.

Thirty-three games in, the Jaspers find themselves tied with the Rider Broncs for the eighth seed in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference with 11 wins and 22 losses. Their longest winning streak of three straight games came between March 22 and March 26, not enough to counter losing five straight in three separate parts of the schedule: (1) Feb. 28 – March 8, (2) March 13 – March 19, (3) April 2 – April 9.

“Wins and losses, it may not look it, but I really like our team. I like the way we competed, for the most part,” Duffy said. “The goal for me was for us to be battle tested I didn’t want a team that we would have an easy time with or teams that we could just put up some wins and not be challenged with. The only thing is you have to make sure you keep your head up when your numbers aren’t there. You have think of the bigger picture, and [that’s] being at the top of the MAAC.”

“We’ve had a tough schedule,” Tom Cosgrove, Jaspers left-handed starting pitcher, said. “Now it’s time to just not accept losing a series and saying ‘Oh, there’s a bunch of positive things that came out of this loss.’ But now we have to start putting it together and getting wins.”

Looking at what remains of the season, there’s 18 games left to play. A doable goal for the Jaspers is to finish .500 — a 22-22 record by season’s end. Of the games on the schedule, 15 of which are conference series, they’d need to win 11. Finishing off the season 11-7 is entirely possible with this group of players, and would place them right in the middle of the seeding.

(Courtesy: Mike Pfenninger)
Micahel Pfenninger taking a sweet hack at the dish. (Photo courtesy of Michael Pfenninger)

This season has also had its glimpses of what the Jaspers could be. The first is Fabian Pena emerging right away as a more than worthy successor to Christian Santisteban with his earning of four MAAC rookie of the week honors and offensive prowess.

Second, their only series win of the season coming at the Lehigh Mountain Hawks showcased what both the pitching and hitting of the Jaspers is capable of when in tandem with each other. When they won the series opener 2-0 and the second game 10-2. And despite the 6-4 loss in the finale, it was close enough where they could’ve won.

Lastly, but certainly not least, Duffy’s win No. 100 as a head coach at the Canisius Golden Griffs, 4-3, on April 10 on none other than MAAC Preseason Player of the Year, Santisteban, with a walk-off single. Duffy has started to build a foundation of players who aren’t just developing into very good baseball players, they’re well-rounded men away from the diamond.

“This year is the first year with all of Duffy’s recruits, so we’re starting to see the mesh of everyone; everyone is family-oriented,” Mike Pfenninger, Jaspers third-baseman, said. “The leadership of a Santisteban, who has been so successful, and he guides a kid like Pena. He has been like a father to us. He’s been really carrying us, [Mike] Scarinci too. [Mike’s] the only player left that has a championship ring. So having him around is big. We’re very lucky that he stayed for a fifth year.

“The chemistry just took off from day one in the fall, and we’ve been riding that. Even though we haven’t had too much success, so far, we’ve stuck together, which has been huge.”