A breakout 2014 season saw the St. Joseph’s College baseball team dominating local competition on its way its the best year in program history.
Along the way, the Bears squad (29–11) captured its first-ever postseason win and recorded the most wins and highest winning percentage of any team in the history of the Fort Greene school. Two players—outfielder Joe Mendez and first baseman Mike Cundari—helped transform the local Division III program into a regional powerhouse, but it wasn’t always this way.
The team was 17–42 in its first two seasons before coach Scott Losche arrived in 2010 from Baruch to begin St. Joseph’s ascent. The Bears’ turnaround began with his first recruiting class, which included Cundari and Mendez. The program was certified in 2011 with the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
“I call those guys the ‘pioneers,’ ” Losche said. “They were the foundation that started all this.”
Over four years, Mendez has generated program records in every major offensive category, including hits (174), doubles (60), home runs (20), RBI (154), total bases (302), slugging percentage (.606) and games started (142). Mendez also made the 2014 D3Baseball All-New York Region team—the highest accolade ever for a St. Joseph’s player.
Not to be outdone, Cundari ended his career with a school-record 124 runs scored, 940 putouts, 142 games played, and is second all-time with 165 hits, 35 doubles and 107 RBI.
“We have to be thankful because they were the guys who came in and built this,” said Losche said.
It all culminated with this season. The Bears won a school-record 12 straight games, and 18 of 19 during a torrid stretch that included a 7–2 win over nationally ranked Penn State Greater Allegheny in the opening game of the 2014 U.S. Collegiate Athletic Association World Series — the program’s first-ever postseason victory. Doing this out of Brooklyn, and with the school’s limited resources, made the run even more impressive to Losche.
“We don’t have a field on campus, and our gym is so small our basketball team can’t play there,” he said.
Mendez and Cundari did have help, including unheralded catcher Domenick Camerada, a transfer last year from Farleigh Dickinson, and freshman shortstop Frances Rapp. Both players provided the Bears with strength up the middle. In his first season Camerada set a St. Joe’s record for throwing runners out (23) and repeated this feat again in 2014. Rapp was named to the World Series all-tournament team.
“Those two guys with their defense totally changed our baseball team,” Losche said.
Another key to the Bears’ success was Chris Cutrone. He led the team with an 8–2 record on the mound and started at second base. When last year’s ace, Rosario DiLorenzo went down in April with a torn pectoral muscle, Cutrone became the Bears’ top starter.
“When he pitched, we had the feeling that we just weren’t going to lose,” Losche said.
The Bears success likely won’t stop here. This year’s roster featured 15 underclassmen, including 10 freshmen. Cutrone will return next season and so will DiLorenzo, who went 5–2 last year.
Losche knows next season will have a very different feel after the run his team went on this year.
“Now teams are gunning for us,” Losche said. “We’re certainly not going to take anybody by surprise.