St. Ed’s baseball has single-minded focus on progress

St. Ed's baseball team. [Photo: Kaila Jones]

Steve Beare has just about everything pointed in a positive direction after two seasons as head coach of St. Ed’s baseball team. Interest in the program is up, and the product on the field seems well attuned to the guidance and philosophy of the coaching staff.

Playing as an independent, the 2019 team finished 11-8 and stands to lose only one graduate from combined varsity and middle school rosters totaling 23 players. That arithmetic alone offers encouragement when not that long ago simply fielding a viable team was a game-to-game concern.

The task of returning our national pastime to prominence at St. Ed’s is still ongoing, but Beare has a firm handle on the ingredients required to move the project forward.

“We try to build team chemistry, and that’s something we really noticed happening around midseason,” Beare said. “This year was the same as last year in that we had a lot of returning players, which was a huge benefit for the team. The players knew the program that the coaching staff was putting out. It’s a specific program based on fundamentals and making sure they all understand the process in which we want the ball handled.”

In baseball, and all sports for that matter, doing the little things well and making the right decisions are what every coach wants to see from his or her players. Beare feels that a nice type of synergy evolved with this group over the course of the past two seasons.

“We have Michael Mangieri (3B), Aidan Taylor (1B), Casey Richey (SS, P) and Will Miller (OF) coming back as seniors,” Beare explained. “Those four guys were in leadership roles this year, as was our only senior, Anand Chundi.

“We had two freshmen (Travis Camp and Zander Beare) working the middle infield quite a bit and getting the chemistry going there was really important for us. Having Chundi controlling the game from behind the plate was huge.”

The idea was to be strong up the middle, develop some of the younger guys into consistent contributors, and find some continuity in leadership. All of that is essential to give the players a chance to perform well and win games.

Naturally, pitching is the main component. Camp and Richey carried the bulk of the load on the hill by posting four wins each, with ERAs under 4.00, including five complete games between them. The offense, while not necessarily explosive, was paced by Mangieri, Camp and Richey. They were all batting north of .300.

“I would characterize our team by saying we were scrappy,” Beare said. “All year long when we’ve been down and the other teams had the opportunity to seize control of the game, we’ve found ways to come back and sometimes win the game. We played to the last out.

“Whether it’s hit-and-runs, steals, or the execution of bunts to move runners along, we’ve asked everyone, including our freshmen, to do those things so we can get to hitters who can do some damage. We had some guys move to different positions on the field and play incredible defense. Really, it was a compilation of all the guys doing those things together that made the team chemistry so incredible this year.

“Good team chemistry builds trust, and that’s when players start to play not for themselves, but for each other. That’s the product that we saw, especially during that seven game win streak.”

The Pirates surged to 10-5 at that point before dropping three of the last four. Beare felt they could have won another game or three, and what coach refuses to believe that? The outlook for next year is already festooned with promise.

“I think all of this is just going to push everyone to play at a higher level,” Beare told us. “That’s what we’ve been pushing for this year – to get them to play outside of their comfort zone and get to that next level.

“Coach (John) Scruggs and I are bringing a high-energy, fast-paced, up-tempo scale to the baseball field. We are also trying to bring the NCAA experience to these guys at the high school level, so when they leave here they are prepared for the college game day.”

The aim for next year is to lock in a more stable schedule by getting back into a FHSAA district. That would also facilitate beefing up the number of games. Beare says he will leave those matters to others while continuing to explore ways to reverse a trend and lure ex-pats back to the sport of baseball on the gorgeous field at St. Ed’s.

“A lot of the kids who used to play baseball may have transferred over to other sports like lacrosse. If our program continues to advance, I can see that as an enticement to get some of those kids back to baseball, the sport I believe they really love.”

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