St. Edmund’s hopeful to make big step up

Eric Cooper is one of the best unknown pitchers in the CHSAA, a 6-foot-7 senior left-hander who was verbally committed to Division II St. Thomas Aquinas. The biggest reason St. Edmund’s big unit is underrated is because the Eagles endured back-to-back miserable seasons, going 1-33 in the league over the course of two years.

“It’s been tough, but we kind of joke about it,” second-year coach Joe Romano said. “We look back on it and think if that doesn’t want you to become better, nothing will.”

And Romano said he’s seen some promising signs in the preseason that would indicate an improved 2010.

“We’re playing competitive games and have a good moral right now,” he said. “We’re all ready to play baseball. We have 18 baseball players this year.”

Leading the way is Cooper, who will also play first base on days he’s not pitching. Last year he was also the victim of some bad luck, losing 2-1 to Christ the King on a balk call and 2-0 to Xaverian after a dropped popup at first.

Romano expects a big year out of him, especially with the addition of pitching coach Lou Welsh to the coaching staff.

“He can spot his fastball and his curve is coming along great,” Romano said. “We have a pitching coach this year, which we didn’t have previously. [Lou is an] alum of the school and I think he’s doing some good things. When you get individual attention, it makes things a lot easier.”

Cooper is a co-captain, along with Luke Koenig, a senior shortstop who will bat near the top of the lineup and is one of a handful of quality returning starters. Joining Cooper in the starting rotation are seniors John Browning and Tommy Finn, as well as junior Matt Birgando, who Romano said has a “legitimate shot at breaking the league three-man rotation.”

“Our juniors were our best players last year,” Romano said. “We’re really looking forward to this year. Hopefully everyone steps to the plate and takes care of business.”

The Eagles biggest loss from last year is Anthony LaFauci, who played first, was a designated hitter and was St. Edmund’s No. 2 starter. He’s now a walk-on at Iona College.

Also leading the returning crop is third baseman Chris Pacifico, who is solid defensively, Brian Doyle will start at second and Anthony Galeano will be at first base when Cooper is on the mound. Senior Sal DeCarlo and junior Pat Kirk will battle for time behind the plate.

Eddie Warren will start in right and junior Jimmy Daley will bat third, start in center and serve as the Eagles closer.

“We’re hitting very well in the preseason games,” Romano said. “We’re hitting well, but we’re not scoring any runs. Our key to winning is defensively. If we don’t walk [guys] and make errors we’ll be OK.”