PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — While they prepare for the postseason to begin, it has already been a historic campaign for the Saint Joseph’s University baseball team.
The Hawks are the regular-season champions of the Atlantic 10 Conference for the first time in program history. They clinched the honor in Fairfax, Virginia on Saturday with a 13-6 win over George Mason.
“It’s been a long time coming, and obviously extremely excited and proud of the way the guys have performed all year,” SJU head coach Fritz Hamburg said. “I think we’ve played a pretty darn tough schedule and I feel like we’re very battle-tested.”
The 27-22-1 Hawks went 17-7 in Atlantic 10 play, and their regular-season title gives them the No. 1 seed in the upcoming A-10 tournament, which is set for Wednesday at VCU in Richmond, Virginia.
The last time the Hawks won a conference title of any kind was back in 1974, when they captured the flag in the Middle Atlantic Conference.
The Hawks can be victorious in many different ways. They have hit a program-record 71 home runs this season, with the thunder evenly distributed. Six different players have hit between 7 and 11 home runs, giving the Hawks an incredibly balanced and deep lineup.
“This year has been really interesting,” Hamburg said. “Typically, you’ll have three or four guys that you’ve got to lean on, and this year, it runs all the way down through the nine-hole.”
Leading that attack is graduate student third baseman Nate Thomas, who is putting the finishing touches on an extraordinary career on Hawk Hill. He is now the program’s all-time leader in home runs (44) and RBI (187).
Not to be outdone, the Hawks are also getting consistent pitching.
“With the two freshmen, [Will] McCausland and [Ryan] DeSanto, and then [junior] Dom Picone on Sunday, who has a ton of experience pitching in the league, those guys give us the opportunity to relax and [perform offensively] because they do a nice job of giving us quality starts,” Hamburg said.
The A-10 tournament begins on Tuesday, but as a result of being the top seed, the Hawks have a first-round bye in the double-elimination setup. Their first game will be Wednesday at 11 a.m. against the winner of Saint Louis and Richmond.