By: Caroline Flahive – Staff Writer
The Dayton Flyers baseball team (20-35, 9-15 A-10) finished the season on May 20 with a three-game winning streak after sweeping A-10 opponent LaSalle.
The three-game sweep marked the largest winning streak of the season for the Flyers, who failed to win more than two games in a row all season.
Despite winning 20 games for the first time since 2014, the Flyers struggled to put everything together and get anything going.
It was a season which lacked consistency as the pitching staff and offense failed to produce at the same time. The Flyers failed to make the A-10 tournament for the second straight year.
“It was a season of ups and downs, we never really got on the same page,” said redshirt-freshman Brandon Smith. “One week we were hitting really good, the next week the pitching would be really good.”
But, the Flyers were happy to end the season on a high note, sending the seniors and head coach Tony Vittorio off in style with three straight wins.
“I love all our seniors on the team, so sending them out with three wins was the best moment of the season for me,” said Smith.
Vittorio’s tenure as head coach of the Dayton Flyers has come to an end after 18 seasons. “Coach V” as the players called him, finished his career with 464 wins, the most in Flyers history, and two A-10 championships.
He earned A-10 Coach of the Year honors in 2009 and led the team to their only NCAA tournament appearance in 2012.
“He was super passionate about the game of baseball,” said redshirt-senior, Mitch Coughlin. “His competitiveness rubbed off on a lot of the guys and motivated us to be the best we could.”
Dayton’s Athletic Department has not yet announced Vittorio’s replacement, but after four straight seasons with a losing record, players are looking forward to the change.
“We all want to win, if they can make some changes there won’t be any problem getting us on board,” said Smith.
Despite the team’s struggles, redshirt-freshman Brandon Smith was named to the A-10 All-Rookie Team and redshirt-senior Mitch Coughlin was named to the All-Academic Team.
Smith, who last season only made four appearances for the Flyers, finished his rookie campaign batting .291. He led the team in home runs (12), RBI (36), slugging percentage (.576), and walks (32).
“The goal is to be the Rookie of the Year or Player of the Year, but it’s always nice to know someone knows you’re doing well,” said Smith.
Coughlin, who was named to the All-Academic Team for the second straight year, was also the recipient of the University of Dayton Presidential Scholar Athlete Award.
The Presidential Scholar Athlete Award is awarded to two student athletes who have demonstrated academic excellence, leadership qualities and service to the Dayton community.
“For me academics have always been the top priority,” said Coughlin. “The household I grew up in was academics first and sports second.”
Coughlin ended his final season on a 10-game hit streak, finishing with a .274 batting average. Coughlin hit his first two career home runs this season, and led the team in stolen bases (15).
Offensively this season for the Flyers, senior Cale Dineen led the team with a .333 batting average. For the season, the Flyers’ offense recorded a .222 batting average and 447 hits.
Next season, the Flyers will look towards junior infielder Connor Echols to carry the load on offense. Echols finished the season with a team high 47 hits and 180 at-bats.
The pitching staff, led by senior Kevin Piersol, finished 20-35, with a total ERA of 5.63. Piersol (2-4) started five games this season for the Flyers and recorded two saves.
Austin Cline picked up a team high 5 wins over 82 innings for the Flyers this season, and led the team with 55 strikeouts. Cline returns for his junior year next season to lead the Flyer’s pitching staff.
During the final series, the freshman pitching trio of R.J. Wagner, Jordan Cox and Tyler Jones combined for six strikeouts and only allowed three hits over 11 innings. Together, the three pitched a total of 132.2 innings this season.
Hopefully for the Flyers, the momentum of the three-game winning streak will carry into next season, under the leadership of a new head coach.
Photo courtesy of Erik Schelkun/Dayton Athletics