Friday, April 26, 2013

And That's All She Wrote

After a lifetime filled with baseball, my career has finally come to a close.  After a 5-3 loss against Lasell College in the Quarterfinals of the GNAC tournament, my college baseball career was officially done.  The realization that it was all over did not hit me, until our whole team came together in right field for what normally results in a postgame speech.  On this occasion my teammates and coaches surrounded myself and our other seniors, giving out hugs and handshakes, as the end was now here. 

I cannot believe that my college baseball career has already finished.  It seems it was just yesterday that I was playing Junior College baseball in New Jersey, being recruited by coach Brian Leighton to come here to Albertus.  Albertus Magnus College and the New Haven community, have turned into a second home for me, and have managed to make me feel welcome from day one.  This school has bestowed me with my nickname, "Sunshine", and has accepted me from the very beginning, even with my gorgeous mustache, and flowing golden hair. 

You just have to love a small college community, like the one here at Albertus Magnus College, because it provides students with a real close-knit community.  It allows students a chance to learn and be more than just a number, and it provides athletes with a chance to be successful on and off the field of play.  So as my career as a college baseball player, and more importantly my time here at Albertus come to a close, I'd just like to thank my teammates and everyone else at Albertus, for making this school the wonderful community that it is. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Ladies and gentleman your Albertus Magnus College baseball squad has officially qualified for the Great Northeast Athletic Conference Playoffs.  After a strong conference season which included a huge 2-game sweep of the conference's top team, Johnson and Wales University, your Falcons have earned a 5 seed in the playoffs.  This season has been a roller coaster ride, for myself and my teammates as there have been some very high, highs, and some low, lows throughout our campaign.

The team we are putting out on the field is young, as a squad of 27 players, encompasses only 4 seniors.  At times, we have encountered some "growing pains" and have lost a few close games we probably should have won.  But despite, a few struggles, we have managed to do what we set out to do from the beginning of the season; get in the playoffs.  Any team in any sport, at any level, will tell you, that the playoffs are like a whole new season.  Regular season stats, and records no longer matter, as one bad game can cost the best team a chance at a title. 

Game one of our playoff run will be held at Brandeis University in Massachusetts as we take on the Lasers of Lasell College.  We dropped two close games early this season against the Lasers, and will look to avenge the losses as our ace, Mike Barrilaro takes the hill.  The playoffs will prove to be a tough challenge for your Falcons, but in a tournament format like the GNAC playoffs, anything can happen, as your Falcons plan on being the Cinderella Story of the Division III world, and earn a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Senior Day

So after 20 years of my life spent, playing the game of baseball, my college "Senior Day" was Monday.  This was a bitter sweet day, as my mother was able to make it up from New Jersey for the big day, but the day also meant my college baseball career is coming to a close.  I have had the honor of playing with some great baseball teams throughout my lifetime at all different levels, and I'm very proud to have called myself a Falcon for the past two seasons.

In between a doubleheader with St. Joe's Maine, our five seniors were recognized for their accomplishments on and off the field.  Allan "BigAl" Matthieu was the first senior honored, as he has been the team's public address announcer for the past four seasons.  He is a staple at all Falcon's home games and has been a huge part of the success of the baseball program.

Next to be honored was senior relief pitcher Richard McLain, or as the baseball team knows him, "Ricky Ross."  Ricky has been a leader on and off the field for the program, and is always a solid lefty option out of the pen.

Dan "Sunshine" Kmiechick (wait that's me), was then announced by coach Brian Leighton.  I burst out of the dugout and immediately gave a chest bump to right fielder Anthony Pellegrino, to announce my presence with authority.  As a captain my senior year I have been able to pitch to a 2-0 record on the hill, which has brought my career win total to 17.

Center fielder Rob "Mozz" "Gamby" Gambardella was the next senior to be honored, as he has spent the past four seasons patrolling the outfield for the Falcons.  He recently smacked his 100th career hit in a game at Western Connecticut State last week.  He is another captain on the Falcons squad, and has played a large leadership role for the team his past two seasons.

The final senior honored was two-time captain and one-time Joel Hanrahan look-a-like contest winner, Matt "Fink" Finkenzeller.  Fink has been a captain the last two years, and a staple in the Falcon pitching staff the past four.  He has had a wonderful career playing at Albertus and has been a stabling force in the clubhouse this season.

It was truly an honor playing at Albertus for the past two seasons, and I was very proud to celebrate my senior day beside such great ballplayers and people.  Senior Day may spell the end of a baseball playing career, but graduation will just be a beginning to a whole new exciting chapter in my life.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Big Win

In my first official start of the 2013 baseball season for your Falcons, I earned my first win of the season, and the 16th of my collegiate career.  Just having the opportunity to play college baseball is enough for me, but to look back on 16 career wins, makes my four year experience even better. 

Tuesday night at Quigley Stadium, I took the hill against Mt. St. Mary's College (NY), in a nine-inning contest.  After a 1-2-3 top of the 1st, our offense managed to push across two runs, handing me an early 2-0 lead.  We would maintain our lead till the 5th inning, when things got a bit shaky.  I allowed the first two batters to reach on singles to start the fifth, then hit the third batter with a knuckleball to load the bases, with no one out.  We were leading 5-2 at the time, and I knew I couldn't let the inning get out of hand.  With a first pitch 2-seam fastball, I was able to induce a huge, 4-6-3 double play.  With a runner now on third and 2 outs, a great sequence of fastball, changeup, fastball, was able to earn a strikeout to get out of the jam with a 5-3 lead still in tact. 

Moment seemed to swing in out favor immediately following that huge escape, as our offense took over scoring 12 runs over the next three innings.  I would eventually leave the game in the 8th inning with 2 outs and a wonderful 14-3 lead!  Senior relief pitcher Richard "Ricky Ross" McLain, would close out the win for me as the final score was 17-5. 

In case you were wondering, there is nothing better than pitching with the immense run support I received on Tuesday night.  It not only takes pressure off the pitcher on the mound, but it allows me to throw nothing but strikes, lowering my pitch count, and speeding up the game.  A big thanks goes out to my fellow Falcons on offense, as well as junior first baseman Zak Sokolis and freshman outfielder Tyler Graziano who made a couple outstanding plays on defense. 

In addition to great offense and defense, came the wonderful work behind the plate by my "battery mate" Arber Mehmedi.  With pitching coach BJ Senna unable to make the game, we were left to call the pitches ourselves, and Arber did an impeccable job, as I only had to shake him off once (which is when a pitcher disagrees with a pitch call and asks for another).  The huge win also came on Arber's birthday, as there is no better way to celebrate a birthday then with a blowout win.

Be at Quigley Stadium on Saturday at 1PM as the Falcons will celebrate their Senior Day, and take on conference rival, and nationally ranked, St. Joe's College (Maine).

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

First Place in the GNAC

Ladies and gentleman your Falcons are the number one team in the GNAC conference.  After a pair of huge wins over conference rival Johnson and Wales University the Falcons have taken over sole possession of first place.  Although the weather at Quigley Stadium in West Haven, CT was frigid, the Falcons managed to stay hot winning their fifth straight game, while improving to 4-0 in conference play.

The doubleheader with Johnson and Wales was a heated battle between two very solid baseball programs, and luckily we came out on top.  In game one pitcher Mike Barillaro pitched 8 innings allowing only three runs to a potent JWU offense.  Down 3-2 in the bottom of the 8th we had one last chance at bat, and after loading the bases with one out, Freshman Mike Anastasio ripped a two-RBI walk off single to right, sending the crowd and the Falcons into a frenzy.  I don't think I have felt that pumped about a win in a long time.

The momentum of game one carried over into game two as we rolled over Johnson and Wales en route to a 3-1 victory.  Pitcher Ryan Fowler threw an absolute gem, striking out 9 JWU batters and allowing only one run in the contest. 

Now that your Falcons are in first place, they control their destiny the rest of the way.  On Saturday, we will be taking on Lasell College in a huge GNAC doubleheader, as Lasell recently upset top 25 ranked St. Joe's (Maine).  We need you out there Falcons fans, so be there, and be loud.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Two Big Wins

On Saturday March 30th, the Albertus Magnus College baseball team, including myself, opened up GNAC conference play with a home doubleheader against the Cadets of Norwich University.  We entered the game coming off a hard fought split doubleheader against Coast Guard Academy, where we lost the first game 1-0 and won the second 3-2.  Confidence was sky-high entering the double dip at Quigley Stadium on Saturday as senior pitcher and one of my fellow captains Matt Finkenzeller took the hill in game 1.

Finkenzeller threw a complete game, allowing only one unearned run, as with the help of a 9 run outburst by our offense, we were able to grab a dominating 9-1 victory.  One of the shining moments of game 1, was when newcomer Jack Pritchard blasted a two run homer to left center that still hasn't landed yet.  Last I heard, it was flying somewhere over my hometown in New Jersey, and showing an in-flight movie.

We got off to a slow start in game 2, allowing 4 runs in the top of the 1st, before scoring one back in the bottom half of the frame.  Our team never got down on ourselves though, as junior pitcher Brian Levchuk steadied himself out and threw a scoreless second inning before the Falcons offense had yet another outburst.  In the bottom of the second following a lead off single by catcher Arber Mehmedi, the Falcons would piece together 6 runs and bat around in the frame.  We went on to win the contest 10-7 and freshman relief pitcher/shortstop Tyler Donnan was able to earn his first win of his young collegiate career.  Freshman Ryan Fowler also earned his first career save.

With the doubleheader sweep your Falcons are now in a three way tie for first place in the GNAC conference with Suffolk University and Johnson and Wales.  On Monday April 1st, we will be taking on Elms College in Massachusetts with yours truly on the mound.  Following that we will be taking on conference rival Johnson and Wales in a home double-dip at Quigley Stadium starting at 4 PM on Tuesday April 2.  Be there Falcons fans, and cheer on your Falcons on their quest for a GNAC title. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Weathering the Weather

I hate to keep making blogs that deal with weather related issues, but when you play an outdoor sport like baseball, weather plays a huge role in your life.  Due to recent snow, rain, hail, ice, sleet, and basically everything else mother nature can throw at us our baseball team has now had games postponed on Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday, costing our team a total of 4 games this week.  Although I would love to be playing the game I love right now there definitely is one thing this horrid weather and these cancelled games are good for; homework completion!

One of the biggest issues for any student-athlete is finding the time to complete homework, while attempting to be the very best athlete they can be on the field of competition.  This week's bountiful amount of rain and snow outs, has allowed me to schedule out my time effectively and complete all of the homework, assigned to me for the next week.  This luxury of time afforded to me by this terrible weather has been a huge help, and has put me ahead of the game as far as my homework goes.

These postponed games may take away our chance to play on certain days, but they allow us to remember the key fact, that we are STUDENT-athletes and not the other way around.  Classes and schoolwork come first, and with this extra time off, I have found real success in the student portion of being a student-athlete.