By Neil Feminella
The baseball team has been around since 1958, when they had three wins and ten losses in their inaugural season under manager Jim Davey, according to the athletic department website. For some time, LIU Post has not been seen as the top team in the region or even the conference for that matter. Yet, in his third year as manager, Coach Mike Gaffney has changed the program’s reputation.
Coach Dick Vining, a member of the LIU Post Hall of Fame, was the head coach for 28 seasons and had a career record of 556 wins, 484 losses and 13 ties, by far the coach with the most wins in the program’s history. Since 2011, however, the Pioneers have seen a lot of turnover in coaching, with four head coaches. When Coach Pete Timmes stepped down, his assistant coach Bill Gaffney took over. In 2014, due to an illness, Coach Bill Gaffney handed the role to Coach John Mauchin, who was named interim manager for the 2015 season. Mike Gaffney, son of Bill, took over in the fall of 2015 and hasn’t looked back. In his first season with the team, Mike Gaffney led his team to the postseason for the first time since 2012. “The team took a hit with constant changes. But under Coach [Mike] Gaffney, we’re making steps in the right direction,” third baseman Mike Greene said.
Getting off to a hot start, the baseball team defeated notable opponents including nationally ranked Southern New Hampshire University and Franklin Pierce University. The Pioneers were nationally ranked for the first time in program history, ranking as high as No. 20. As for the East Region rankings, they were as high as No. 2. Moving forward in the season, the main goal of the team was to win the conference championship and get a regional bid for the NCAA College World Series. “Making the playoffs is a main goal, but the ultimate goal is to win a conference championship. As time goes on, we want to get to a point, in the future, where we dominate the conference and compete every year for the NCAA tournament,” sophomore Jimmy Mendyk said.
Coach Mike Gaffney is excited for the program’s success and being around “such a great group of guys.” He feels that there wasn’t too much of a change between his dad’s philosophy and his. He just tried to get the guys back on track and have a winning attitude. “There was a change in the culture to an extent, but it helps when everyone buys into the culture and understands what’s right and wrong.” Coach Gaffney added, “when we’re successful and winning, guys buy into it easier.”
Many players, both current and former, agree that the program has been turned. The turnaround can be attributed to both the attitude and the comradery. “Coach Gaff brings a more professional attitude than we had in the past,” former pitcherJoey Arena said. “When I came in freshman year, the culture around the baseball team was not really focused on baseball. Everyone was mostly interested on what they were doing after practice and on the weekends,” junior Rob Andreoli said. “But when Coach Gaff took over, the common goal became winning and less of the off the field shenanigans.” There is better chemistry on the team, from seniors to freshmen, and they are a “tight-knit group,” Greene said of the team’s morale now. The Pioneers have been producing great numbers with some potent local talent. Thirty six players on this year’s roster are from Long Island. Many of them have played together in the past, fortheir high school teams, travel teams, personal trainings or atcamps. This chemistry and comradery helped in the success of a winning team.
Dan Jagiello, a senior from West Islip, and Rob Andreoli a junior from North Wantagh, were two of this year’s notable local players. Jagiello has been on the Major League radar for the past couple of seasons with his dominant fastball. He currently leads the ECC in saves, with eight. He attributes some of his success to the “tough offseason workouts” that keep him in shape. Andreoli currently leads the ECC in hits, with 53, is second in Runs Batted in (RBI), with 30, and is third in the ECC with a batting average of .366. Both of these players aspire to make it to the next level. “I’ve been working hard on and off the field. I’m always doing something baseball-wise, whether it is hitting, throwing or even watching a game,” Andreoli said.
The Pioneers won their regular season finale against Molloy College on May 7, with a 5-0 shutout, ending the season with a record of 27 wins and 18 losses overall. The team secured a number two spot in next week’s ECC Championship. They are set to play the University of Bridgeport in Uniondale on May 11. The members of the baseball team will continue to push themselves to the end, with the chance of becoming ECC champions for the first time since 2010.