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The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

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The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

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Stan State Baseball Returns After Nearly Two Year Hiatus, Grabs 5-3 Win Over Academy of Art

The+2022+Stanislaus+State+baseball+team+prepare+to+take+their+positions+at+Warrior+Field+for+the+first+time+in+nearly+700+days.+%28Signal+Photo%2FChristopher+Correa%29

The 2022 Stanislaus State baseball team prepare to take their positions at Warrior Field for the first time in nearly 700 days. (Signal Photo/Christopher Correa)

The Stanislaus State baseball team returned to the diamond for the first time since March 8, 2020 to take on the Academy of Art Urban Knights on Tuesday night.
The 2020 season was put to an abrupt halt at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, the 2021 season never materialized after the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) cancelling all competition for the entirety of the 2020-21 academic year and a campus travel ban being in place at Stan State.
Warriors head coach Kenny Leonesio spoke about the experience of being back at Warrior Field in front of fans for the first time in almost two years.
“It’s really good to be back, but it is a little strange and may take some getting used to again,” Leonesio said.
He explained that Tuesday’s matchup was a chance for him to see how his young squad performed against competition other than themselves.
“We’ve played a lot of intersquad games and that gets a little bit old and obsolete. The guys were really excited about being out here and they’ve been working really hard in practice. It feels like we’ve been practicing for a year and a half.”
As for the players, the day served as an opportunity to get some much needed experience. This year’s Warriors baseball roster consists of 23 players, including 16 freshmen, the most in Stan State baseball history since the inaugural 1966 season.
Leonesio made a note that not all of his freshmen players have the same experience at the collegiate level. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of players were granted extra years of eligibility by the NCAA.

“We have some guys that are freshmen that have actually played at this level and most others who don’t have a lot of innings,” Leonesio said. “Now they’re being asked to step in there and carry the load. We’re definitely inexperienced, but I think we’re talented enough to win some games.”

Luckily for Leonesio and his team, there are several returning players from the last time Stan State baseball took the field in May of 2020, including junior second baseman Trevor McInerney.

“After two years, I think everybody is just so excited to get back out here,” McInerney said. “This game gets the nerves out of the way.”

Another returning player is junior right-handed pitcher Maxwell Pappas. Pappas, formerly the Warriors’ closer in 2020, was tabbed as the starter for the season opener. He was effective immediately once the game went underway as he cruised through the first two innings while only allowing two hits and one walk.

The Academy of Art threatened to score in the top half of the third inning when shortstop Dominic Ruggiero nabbed a hit, which was followed up by a walk by catcher Liam Rizzo. The Urban Knights failed to execute a two-out rally when Stan State freshman shortstop Ryan Leonesio saved a McInerney throwing error. Leonesio leaped high in the air to prevent McInerney’s throw from heading into the outfield and instantaneously laid down a between-the-legs tag on Rizzo at second base to end the half inning.

Leonesio’s stellar defense sparked momentum for the Warriors offense in the bottom half of the third as they exploded for five runs. McInerney made up for his errant throw by contributing to the scoring spree with a two-run single to left field.

“In my first at-bat, I was looking to get a fastball, but I ended up looking at three straight sliders. I wanted to take that into my second at-bat, so I went up looking for a slider first pitch and I got it,” McInerney said.

Pappas returned to the mound in the fourth inning with a comfortable 5-0 lead, but his spotless stat line would soon be tainted in his fifth inning of work. Pappas struggled with his command and gave up three hits, two walks and hit another batter with a pitch. He finally worked a strikeout to end the inning, but not before the Urban Knights scored three runs to make it 5-3.

Coach Leonesio spoke about Pappas’ command issues after the game while reaffirming his spot as the ace of the pitching staff.

“Max was our closer a few years ago and now he’s going to be the guy that’s going to start on Fridays,” Leonesia said. “I don’t know if he ran out of gas a little bit there, but the walks were a little bit high.” 

He added that Pappas needs to cut down on the free bases, but overall thought he looked good.

“We’re excited to see him continue to improve,” he said.

Left-hander Tony Jacob came on in relief of Pappas and did not disappoint in his first action as a Stan State Warrior. Jacob was perfect in his four innings of work and put an end to the game after striking out five batters. Leonesio was impressed with Jacob’s debut performance and spoke about his expectations for the freshman southpaw moving forward.
“Jacob is going to end up being a starter. Since we only have the one game this week, he came out of the bullpen,” Leonesio explained.
Leonesio also stressed the need for improvement from his team, especially after such a long layoff.
“We need to improve on everything, to be honest,” Leonesio said jokingly. “The thing about us is, like I said, we’re inexperienced. The more we get out there and get a chance to play, we’ll get better. This team has been really good at wanting to come out every single day and get better. The way we get better is to play other people, and so I think you’re going to see us just to continue to improve as the year goes on.”
The Warriors will be back in action on Friday, February 11 for a four game series against Western Oregon in Turlock. The remainder of the 2022 Stan State baseball schedule can be found in its entirety here.

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Stan State Baseball Returns After Nearly Two Year Hiatus, Grabs 5-3 Win Over Academy of Art