Coach Gawlak speaks out on upcoming baseball season

Written for The Argo by Andrew Connolly

As Stockton University’s baseball team is about to get its season underway, The Argo sat down with Stockton Baseball’s head coach, Rich Gawlak, to see what members of the community can expect from this year’s season. 

Last year, Stockton went 16-23-1 overall and 6-12 in out of conference play. While this may seem bleak at first glance, some of Stockton’s better players were freshmen in the last season. Notable current sophomores include Tucker Elder and Jordan Nitti, who was an all region player last year for Stockton. A certain amount of progression should be expected with some of their top talent being so young. When asked if he expects the same, Galwak looked at it from a different perspective. “We just want our underclassmen to continue to grow, and our upperclassmen to lead the way in that,” he said.

Gawlak isn’t one for lofty expectations; he expressed a desire for steady improvement in all facets of the game, though he specifically emphasized the need for improvement in closing games. Gawlak cited the team’s inability to close out games as their “Achilles heel” last season. “The pitching and defense down the stretch last year was not where it needed to be, so that’s something we’ve really focused on,” said Gawlak.

Stockton Baseball has 19 underclassmen on the team this year, so some may expect Gawlak to approach this season as a retooling year—he didn’t see it that way. “We’re going to play our best 9 guys as we go through. It’ll take some time to figure out who earns the most playing time, we’ll figure that out during our spring trip and the early non-conference season,” said Gawlak. He holds this current iteration of Stockton baseball in high regard, stating that “It’s probably the most comfortable I’ve been with a roster since I’ve been here.” Stockton Baseball fans should be expecting a much more well-rounded team this coming spring. 

As comfortable as Gawlak is with the current roster, one player the team will certainly miss is Sam Nieves. Nieves got the opportunity to move to Coppin State, a Division 1 school. When asked if Stockton baseball fans should expect the same leap from anyone on this year’s team in the future, Gawlak said that “We have a couple guys that, if they continue on the path they’re on, can have the opportunity to play at a higher collegiate level or even professional.” He mentioned Mike Schiattarella, the team’s ace, as one player that he could see making such a leap. “Mike had a perfect game for us last year and was one of the better pitchers in our conference; he’s had some looks from other schools and we’ve sent him to some pro workouts,” said Gawlak.

Gawlak’s comments on the Spring 2023 season suggest that this team has tons of potential, but it is up to the players to apply it on the field. It’s not far-fetched to say that those close losses from last year, with some adjustments, could turn into wins this year.