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Your donation will support The Ithacan's student journalists in their effort to keep the Ithaca College and wider Ithaca community informed. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Baseball puts league championship chase into full swing

From%2C+left+senior+third+baseman+Ethan+Rothstein+and+sophomore+pitcher+Jack+Colyer+have+big+hopes+for+this+season+and+aim+to+win+the+Liberty+League+for+the+third+year+in+a+row.
Malik Clement
From, left senior third baseman Ethan Rothstein and sophomore pitcher Jack Colyer have big hopes for this season and aim to win the Liberty League for the third year in a row.

The Ithaca College baseball team came up short in the NCAA playoffs last year when they fell to the No. 4 Endicott College Gulls 12–10 and 7–3 in the NCAA Super Regional. The Bombers will be looking to rectify their early exit last year and go all the way to the World Series.

Last season, the Bombers had a solid performance, finishing third in the west division of the Liberty League with an overall record of 31–15 and an impressive division record of 10–5. 

After coming off tournament championship finishes in the Liberty League in both 2022 and 2023, the Bombers will look to carry the torch of their prior iterations. A good omen of the potential of the team has already shown itself in the team’s preseason ranking. Heading into this season, the Bombers have been nationally ranked No. 25 in the preseason poll.

Head coach David Valesente said he wants to keep his team active and believes that he has a strong group of players that coexist well together.

“Our goals are to continue off the last couple of years and stay competitive,” Valesente said. “We are returning a majority of our lineup from last year for this season.”

Valesente has numerous players returning to his lineup like senior third baseman Ethan Rothstein and junior pitcher Colin Leyner. 

Coming off a junior season where Rothstein was second on the team with eight home runs and third on the team with 44 RBI’s, Rothstein said there is less tension going into this year than there has been previously.

“The nerves are easier going into this season, but the leadership role will be different,” Rothstein said.

Similarly to everyone else on the team, Rothstein said he wants to continue to win. He wants to host Liberty Leagues this year, which means the Bombers would have to achieve the best conference and division record in the league during regular season play. “Winning the Liberty League three years in a row would be awesome,” Rothstein said. “Hosting the Liberty Leagues would be awesome.”

The Bombers certainly have the skill to do it too. Last season, they batted .338 as a team. On the other side of things, the Bombers’ pitching was able to keep the opposition batting average at .272.

When it comes to individual success, Rothstein said that being an All-American athlete would be cool, but Rothstein did not want to talk about that. Instead, he continued to speak on behalf of the team’s goals and said he wants to go farther in the NCAA playoffs.

Rothstein may have not wanted to discuss his individual success, but it is something that cannot be ignored. He has put together a stellar career at the collegiate level. Rothstein has batted a career average of .314, has an on-base percentage of .385 and has driven in 75 RBIs throughout the course of his career.

Rothstein said Valesente has helped build a camaraderie around the team. Valesente said his players truly want to succeed together as they would rather ignore their terrific stat line and worry about how they can best help the team make the NCAA tournament and beyond.

“Coach has done a really good job at creating a winning culture for our team,” Rothstein said. “He does a fantastic job recruiting good players, who are good people.”

Furthering the praise for Valesente, sophomore pitcher Jack Colyer said Valesente’s eager goals have furthered improvement in the team.

“The winning culture has been here since I have been here,” Colyer said. “The high expectations that have been created work for us and make us better.”

Another two key recruits brought in to the Bombers’ system this year are junior catcher Tyler Pugliese and sophomore catcher Logan Scully. Pugliese transfered to the Bombers from the Division l University of Albany. Scully transfered to the Bombers after spending 2022 with Divsion l George Mason University and 2023 with Cloud County Community College. Pugliese and Scully will compete for the starting catcher position with returning sophomore Ethan Daddabbo.

Some of the new first-year class include first baseman Camden Laney, infielder Juvel Mendez and outfielder Luca Pipia. Valesente said their work ethic and attitudes set them apart. 

Another incoming contributor to the team will be sophomore pitcher Nate Rodriguez. Valesente said that Rodriguez was sidelined for his first-year season but that he will be a player to look out for this season.

“Rodriguez did not pitch at all last year because he had undergone Tommy John surgery,” Valesente said. “I am really looking forward to him being able to pitch this season.”

Players like Rothstein and Colyer may have high hopes for the season, but they will still have a grueling baseball season ahead of themselves. The South Hill squad will get the usual Liberty League divisional opponents consisting of Clarkson University, Hobart College, St. Lawrence University, as well as the two teams that finished ahead of them in conference play last season — the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers and the University of Rochester Yellowjackets.

Valesente said he wants to be able to compete with any opponent the team is faced with this season.

“I want to be able to play competitive games all season,” Valesente said. “The season is going to be a little different this year.”

The difference that Valesente was referencing was the opening stretch to the season will be changed. The Bombers will make a road trip through Washington, PA, to start their season. This will include games against Washington and Jefferson College, Case Western Reserve University and the University of Mount Union. 

The Bombers’ players and coach have set lofty expectations for themselves this season and they have a talented roster to accomplish their goals of staying competitive, winning the Liberty League and maybe even winning a World Series.

With the season already underway, Colyer said he is just looking forward to enjoying the ride and seeing the team grow.

“One of things I am excited about is to watch all of the pieces come together, the players develop, and everything fall in place,” Colyer said.

The Bombers began their season losing to both the University of Mount Union 11–7 and Case Western Reserve University 9–8. They will next face the United States Merchant Marine Academy at 12 p.m. March 2 in
Nassau County, NY.  

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Malik Clement, Managing Editor
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