After a disappointing end to the 2018 season, the Rye baseball team has wasted little time setting a tone this spring. On March 28, the Garnets picked up their second win of the year, a 10-0 victory over visiting Blind Brook. But Rye’s veteran ballclub knows all too well that a hot start is not nearly as satisfying as a strong finish.
Last year, the Garnets tore through the regular season, amassing a 15-3-1 record en route to securing a top seed in the Class A playoffs. In the first round of the postseason however, Rye was upended in a 1-0 loss to Brewster, a loss that has weighed heavily on the minds of the 10 returning players.
“They definitely have a bad taste in their mouth from last year,” head coach Mike Bruno said. “All the guys who have been a part of that, the juniors and seniors, they understand that the regular season is important, but it’s more important to keep getting better.”
Through the first two games of the season, the Garnets have answered the call, opening with an 11-0 win over Saunders on March 24 and coming back on Thursday to pick up another shutout victory over the Trojans. Senior pitcher Jason Ciardiello kept Rye’s scoreless streak intact in the six-inning game, fanning four batters and allowing just three hits on the afternoon. Ciardiello is expected to slide into a starter role this season, providing the Garnets with some much-needed depth behind co-aces Sean Thompson and Declan Lavelle.
“He’s going to fit in nicely, potentially as our third starter,” Bruno said. “We’re trying to keep our arms as healthy as possible heading into May.”
Alex Noga led the charge against Blind Brook, going 3-for-3 with 5 RBIs, but Bruno believes that despite scoring 21 runs in the first two games, the Garnets have yet to truly hit their stride at the plate.
“Our timing is still a little bit off, we haven’t been getting the big hit with the bases loaded,” he said. “But I think overall we’ve been having good at bats.”
As the season progresses, the Garnets will look for someone to emerge as a true top of the lineup threat, with Thompson and Henry Friedrich emerging as early candidates for the role. Ultimately, Bruno believes that the Garnets’ true strength will lie in is overall depth and attention to detail.
“Every year, we rely mostly on our pitching and defense, and at times we have lacked the ability to get that big hit,” he said. “So we’re going to have to play small ball, move runners over and I think that our guys who are now veterans know how to do that.”
Rye will begin league play on April 9, when the Garnets host Eastchester. Bruno feels that the challenges within League II-D should provide the Garnets with a good test that should pay off come postseason.
“The league is always competitive, and Byram Hills, Harrison, Pelham and Eastchester are all quality baseball programs,” Bruno said. “It’s always a grind.”