The University of Richmond baseball team has its home opener today against the College of William and Mary on the Spider’s Pitt Field.
The Spiders ended the 2021 season with a 19-17 record after facing multiple delays because of COVID-19. The team began its season on Friday with three away games in Charleston, South Carolina, at the 2022 Swig and Swine College Classic. The team went 2-1 in the series with a comeback in the eighth inning of their Saturday game to beat Bucknell University 3-2.
“I think every year, we’re excited about what we’ve got, but definitely more excited this year,” head coach Tracy Woodson said. “I think we’ve got a lot more pitchers that are ready to pitch at a Division I level and those including the young ones we brought in.”
Woodson has been with the Spiders since 2013 as the eighth head coach in Spider baseball history, according to the UR website.
UR has a new addition to its team with assistant and pitching coach Joshua Epstein. He joined the team after three seasons as an assistant and pitching coach with Monmouth University. Epstein’s goal for the season is to help improve the pitching on the team by focusing on smaller details rather than just wins and losses, he said.
“Wins and losses are very much the product — we want to measure the process,” he said. “So what goes into a win? Strike percentage, first-pitch strike percentage … those are all components of what leads to winning.”
Sophomore Alden Mathes is beginning his third season with the team as a left-handed pitcher and utility player. Mathes said he was excited for this spring after a productive fall and winter preparing for the season.
“I’ve been working with the team,” Mathes said. “I mean, every day we come out here and practice, whether it’s pitching practice or hitting practice. This year the whole team has been focused. It seems like we’re a lot more organized.”
Much of this team’s success this season will be because of their chemistry, Woodson said.
“I think chemistry is big,” he said. “That first trip on the road is good for team morale.”
Senior Dom Toso is entering his second season as team captain and said he planned to use that position to improve and encourage the team. Toso transferred to UR from Bucknell as a junior for the 2020 season. He immediately made a difference, leading the team with five home runs and 17 runs batted in for the 2020 season.
“I think this year is a huge year in terms of my goals, and I really want to make an influence and leave this program better than when I got here,” Toso said. “I take a lot of pride in making sure people take pride in being a part of this team.”
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Both Mathes and Toso have had a big impact on the team and its success throughout their careers as Spiders, as seen in their stats. Mathes has a career of 18 runs batted in and pitched a combined 46 innings throughout his baseball career. Toso played in every game in the 2021 season, started in 35 of 36 games and held the team-high 25 runs. This success does not come without hard work and dedication, he said.
“I feel like I’m in the best position possible to have a great year,” Toso said. “ I feel like I worked very, very hard and couldn’t be more confident in myself this year to bring home a championship to Richmond,”
That talent does not come without a bit of superstition and pregame rituals.
“I always have a dollar bill in my back left pocket,” Mathes said.
Mathes also said he liked to prepare for his games by listening to music to mentally lock in. Toso highlighted the importance of keeping calm. He attributes his knowledge of this to assistant coach Nate Mulberg, who has been working with the team since July 2017.
“Coach Mulberg has been a big influence on me, just teaching me how to be calm — not being too high or too low,” Toso said. “I’m a big coffee drinker, so I always have to have a good coffee before the game and feel relaxed.”
Overall, the Spiders have big hopes for their season. Woodson, Epstein, Toso and Mathes all said they believed this was the strongest team they had seen yet.
“Win 40 games, win the A-10 [Conference] and make some noise in regionals,” Mathes said about his plans for the season.
Contact sports writer Lucia Helmers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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