Baseball off to best start since 2012

Head Coach Loren Torres talks with center fielder Brian Gise during his first season in 2010. Torres earned his 400th career win as a head coach last weekend and is on the verge of 300 wins with Point Park.

Written By Josh Croup, Co-Sports Editor

The baseball team is off to its hottest start since the 2012 season when it posted a program-record of 53 wins.

The 2012 team was the last to reach the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) College World Series. The Pioneers finished the season ranked No. 6 in the final NAIA Top 25 poll of the season during head coach Lorren Torres’ third year at the university.

Torres picked up his 400th career win Saturday against Indiana University Kokomo and is now six shy of 300 wins as the Pioneers’ skipper.

Point Park returns what Torres said is his deepest roster since the 2012 NAIA World Series club, with six of last year’s nine consistent hitters in the batting order back and the team’s top reliever and starting pitcher.

“Anything other than reaching the national tournament is not meeting our standard,” Torres said. “I feel good about saying that we’re probably the team to beat this year with as many returning guys as we have.”

The Pioneers lost two of their top hitters from last year’s team in shortstop Cole Johnson and left fielder Manny Lopez. Johnson hit a consistent .352 while Lopez slugged nine homers and hit a team-best .369.

The shortstop vacancy was quickly filled by Jake Horew, who redshirted last season. Horew led the team in hitting two years ago with a .392 average with eight home runs. Through 11 games this season, he is only hitting .233 but has 11 RBIs, the second-most on the team.

His younger brother, Cole, is competing for the vacant left field spot in his second year with the club. Cole Horew has started the year hitting .416 with five RBIs through his first 10 games played. He is still competing for the starting role alongside Reynaldo Adames, who is hitting .450 with 11 runs scored.

Point Park also returns its outfield core from last season, anchored by seniors Stefan Mrkonja in center and Edberg Dominguez in right. The pair hit .336 last season with nine and three homers respectively. Dominguez was named to the All-River States Conference (RSC) Second Team and was the All-RSC Gold Glove award-winner in right field.

The lineup also returns Chris Hernandez for his fourth year behind the plate, senior Richard Perez to the designated hitter spot, junior third baseman Erik Montero and senior Andres Herrera to second base. Montero lead the team with 14 RBIs through 11 games.

The pitching staff that helped Point Park to a 36-19 overall and 26-6 RSC record last year returns with some of its strongest weapons.

The Pioneers did lose Nolan Krivijanski to graduation, who led the staff alongside Nick Beardsley last year. Beardsley returns to the rotation this year as the No. 1 starter after a sophomore season that led to an All-RSC Second Team selection with a 5-1 record through 12 games with a 1.93 ERA.

Addison Domingo, who spent time in the starting rotation, bullpen, and at second base last year, is back for his second year with the Pioneers for his senior campaign. Torres said Domingo has the potential to be one of the best pitchers in the country after receiving All-RSC First Team honors last year with a 10-4 record, three saves and a 3.84 ERA.

A new addition to the rotation this season is Nick Bucci, who transfered to Point Park from Thiel College. Through two starts, Bucci is 2-0 with a 1.49 ERA and 14 strikeouts through 12.1 innings.

The Pioneers went 7-1 to open the season during Spring Break in Florida at the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational, with their sole loss coming in the opening game, a 1-0 loss to Warner University. It was the 12th game of the season for Warner.

Point Park returned from Florida and took to Indiana to face the IU Kokomo Cougars in the first RSC meeting of 2018. The Pioneers swept the series 6-3, 14-1 and 6-1 to improve to 10-1 and 3-0 in the RSC.

The Pioneers continue their 2018 campaign this weekend at Brescia for a three-game series. The Bearcats have lost 12 of their first 13 games to open the year.

Torres looks to win his fifth regular season conference title in the last six years in 2018. Unlike previous years, the winner of the regular season crown this season in the RSC gets an automatic bid to the NAIA National Tournament.

“We feel good about our chances,” Torres said. “We have to go out there to get it done. We have both the experience and the capabilities.”