Flyers baseball second baseman Mariano Ricciardi throws towards first base at Day Air Ballpark. Photo courtesy of Dayton Baseball on Twitter.
In the last year since the COVID-19 pandemic caused the world to shut down – or at least slow down – sports have been cancelled and then resumed. For University of Dayton baseball senior Mariano Ricciardi, the journey from the cancellation of the 2020 spring season to the resumption of play in the current season has been defined by hard work and preparation.
When the remainder of the 2020 season was cancelled, the Flyers were sitting at 6-8, but had swept a 3-game weekend series against Northern Kentucky. They lost their last game of the season 19-5 to Morehead State, but were overall back on the right track after losing four straight (started season 3-1).
Ricciardi, a second baseman out of West Boylston, Mass., began his college journey at Florida Atlantic, where he redshirted the 2018 season. He then transferred to Cypress College in 2019. He came into the 2020 season as a transfer to UD after batting .324 with 19 runs batted in (RBIs) in 40 games played for the Chargers.
As the 2020 season began, Ricciardi emerged as the Flyers’ leading hitter, starting the season with 8 hits in 17 at-bats in 4 games against Bryant and UNC-Wilmington.
Ricciardi continued the hot hitting against Memphis with 4 hits in 3 games, and in the series against NKU, he got 6 more hits.
With a batting average of .339 and 7 RBIs, Ricciardi was playing his best baseball when the pandemic hit. The Flyers season was cancelled, with six non-conference games remaining before the Atlantic 10 season started. Ricciardi said there was “a lot” of disappointment when the season was cancelled.
“I thought the first weekend especially we got off to a good start,” Ricciardi said. “Everybody thought we were gonna get the ball rolling on everything. But obviously when that happened, everyone was crushed, we didn’t really know when we were going to come back or if we were going to play again. I’d say (we felt) disappointment for sure.”
The spring was defined by a lot of uncertainty for Ricciardi and the rest of the baseball team. There were a lot of questions and little contact with their coach, but as the summer started the team realized there would be a season at some point.
“(During that time) it was just about training,” Ricciardi said. “You know, you miss all those at-bats, and all the summer time you’re not playing, those are crucial times for a baseball player to get their reps in and get ready.”
For Ricciardi, the training to get ready for the fall practices and eventual 2021 spring season included playing for summer league teams. He spent about “half the year” playing in summer leagues, and would get up and work out before getting to the field to get as many at-bats as he could.
“But we were coming back here (to UD) early, so everyone was a little more strict with their training programs, and we just kind of had to get back here to be ready for the fall.”
When the news came saying the baseball team would be practicing in the fall for a spring season, Ricciardi said the team was “ecstatic.”
“Anytime we get to come out here with these guys, it’s a great group and everybody loves each other,” Ricciardi said. “So we were just thrilled, and it was pretty much petal to the metal right from the start because we didn’t know how much time we were going to have on the field and (before) it gets cold. Nobody knew how long that we were going to get out here, but it pretty much went right into games.”
While the pitchers began to figure out how far they could go in games, Ricciardi and the other hitters got in there at-bats and live reads.
“I think that kind of helped us get in shape and ready for the spring,” Ricciardi said.
With the 2021 spring season well underway, the Flyers have started the season 14-23. Although the record is not where it needs to be, Ricciardi said the team has the talent but haven’t shown it yet.
“I know these guys, I know this crew, and they’re going to work until we figure it out,” Ricciardi said. “The good thing is, we’ve got conference (games) ahead of us, … this really matters for us right now. We’ve just kind of got to look forward, and I think if we look forward and just figure out what we need to do best, we’ll be alright.”