NJIT baseball ‘living the dream’ of NCAA Tournament berth

Start with the dwelling subject — or lack thereof.

New Jersey Institute of Technology’s baseball crew has to take bus rides to practices and video games at Kean University.

Then think about the roster — which incorporates gamers from California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Texas and Maryland. It is a hodgepodge of student-athletes who can meet the rigors of the acclaimed engineering faculty in Newark. Its prime two place gamers, twin brothers David and Julio Marcano of Texas, landed at NJIT solely after reaching out to teach Robbie McClellan themselves over e-mail.

The Highlanders, lower than 20 years a Division I program, are the epitome of an underdog story. You can’t discover a higher David versus Goliath instance than Friday night time, when NJIT’s baseball crew makes its NCAA Tournament debut towards Arkansas, the top-seeded crew in the nation. It will go from near-anonymity to taking part in on the sport’s greatest stage, in entrance of over 11,000 folks at Baum Walker Stadium, in the double-elimination Fayetteville Regional. There have been extra media requests in the previous week for NJIT than the previous 10 years mixed.

“For NJIT baseball, it’s the biggest moment that’s ever happened in program history,” stated the 40-year-old McClellan, in his third season as the crew’s head coach. “It’s a great experience for our kids. It’s a great experience for our university. It’s so much recognition. It’s a big deal.”

Such a chance would’ve appeared impossible as lately as early April. NJIT began 3-12. It lacked an identification. The protection was a sieve.

Then David Marcano, the crew’s solely true shortstop, returned from a damaged hamate bone. Everything fell into place from there. They closed the 12 months by profitable 18 of 22 video games and 9 in a row. They gained their first two video games in the America East Tournament, rallying from behind each occasions to advance to the championship recreation out of the winner’s bracket.

NJIT baseball
NJIT’s Julio Marcano
Matt Kipp

NJIT didn’t should play once more to achieve the NCAA Tournament. Heavy rains canceled the title recreation towards Stony Brook, and since NJIT hadn’t misplaced in the match, it was deemed the winner. The NCAA required all convention tournaments to be determined by the finish of the day.

“We’re living the dream right now — the college baseball player’s dream — of making the regionals and playing on the biggest stage of college baseball,” stated infielder Julio Marcano, the crew chief in nearly each offensive class and a first-team All-America East choice. “This is a moment you should cherish.”

McClellan and his gamers insist they gained’t be in awe of Arkansas. Two years in the past, NJIT defeated three top-25 groups. Of course, that was totally different, the coach acknowledged. This group has by no means confronted a top-10 crew, not to mention the No. 1 crew in the nation with a 46-10 report and a quantity of prime draft prospects, led by ace reliever Kevin Kopps. McClellan’s message has been to not change a factor. Julio Marcano, who has performed towards elite competitors earlier than in the prestigious Cape Cod Summer League, has emphasised the want for his teammates to get pleasure from this. He’s assured they’ll play with Arkansas.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” beginning pitcher Jared Kacso stated. “Arkansas has never seen a team like us before. They’re used to seeing 100 mph fastballs and 6-foot-5 hitters. But we’re a different team than that. We’ll probably be a unique look for them.”

There’s been loads of luck to get up to now. The COVID-19 pandemic labored in NJIT’s favor. Two of its prime starters, Kacso and Friday’s starter Tyler Stafflinger, gained an additional 12 months of eligibility. It enabled Kacso, coping with a torn labrum in his shoulder, to get totally wholesome, and he has loved a powerful season. David and Julio Marcano had been taking a look at Ivy League colleges however wished monetary help. That’s once they got here throughout NJIT. Julio Marcano emailed McClellan, beginning the recruiting course of. McClellan described the duo as “generational players for NJIT” who will break each offensive report at school historical past in the event that they return to high school subsequent 12 months.

“Sometimes, recruiting takes a little luck,” McClellan stated. “When you’re building a program, you have to find the right types of kids. I think we’re lucky by the fact we have kids that are interested in putting NJIT on the map.”

Just getting up to now is critical, in phrases of elevating the faculty’s athletic profile. The males’s basketball crew obtained notoriety after it upset Michigan in 2014 as a 24.5-point underdog, and now it’s baseball’s flip. Athletic director Lenny Kapkan stated the faculty has been looking for a plot of land in Newark to construct a subject for the crew, after its previous subject, Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium, was torn down. Kaplan has heard from gamers going again all the option to the Seventies about this crew. Teachers have reached out to him.

NJIT
NJIT pitcher Jared Kasco
Matt Kipp

“Everyone likes the success of the kids because they know how hard they work academically,” Kaplan stated of the crew, which has a cumulative 3.48 GPA.

NJIT, although, desires to show it belongs. As the lowest seed in the subject, Julio Mercado understands not a lot is predicted out of his crew. If you take a look at its general 26-22 report and the statistics the Highlanders compiled, it’s not overly spectacular in comparison with most of the groups in the match.

But it is a crew that completed the 12 months sizzling, that has overcome a lot simply to get up to now. It gained’t be scared or intimidated regardless of the lengthy odds.

“I think,” Julio Marcano stated, “we’re going to surprise a lot of people.”

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