By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
When St. Bonaventure pitcher Connor Grey was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 20th round of the Major League Baseball draft on Saturday, a dream wasn’t the only thing realized.
The moment was an incredible one not only for the 6-foot fireballer and his family, but the Bona baseball program as a whole. This was the second consecutive year a Bonnie was picked, with pitcher Steven Klimek going to the Orioles in the 33rd round in 2015.
Larry Sudbrook’s team is on a high it hasn’t experienced in almost a decade; it just posted its first winning record since 2008, while two members of its pitching staff are now pros.
After a 111-169-2 record from 2011-15, these recent achievements are tangible signs that the program is making progress towards becoming an Atlantic 10 contender again.
From 2000-08, the team made the A-10 Tournament six times, making the NCAA Tournament in 2004. Despite the brutal Olean winters that make it challenging to field a competitive ballclub, Sudbrook and his assistants are proving they can find local athletes (Klimek is from Rochester, while Grey is from Frewsburg, N.Y.) who have great potential.
The eight graduates on the roster will be missed, but next season still looks promising. Leadoff hitter Tashi Terashima led the team in hits with 59 and figures to improve that total in his second and final collegiate season. Sophomore shortstop Cole Peterson batted .289 with 26 runs batted in and is once again playing summer ball with the Olean Oilers of the New York College Baseball League (NYCBL), who are trying to defend last year’s title.
Joining Peterson on the Oilers are left-handed pitcher Aaron Phillips and outfielder David Vaccaro, who will be going into junior and senior year, respectively, next year.
Phillips pitched in 13 games for the Bonnies this year, starting 10 and posting a 3.02 earned run average. Offensively, he hit .302 with two homers and 14 runs batted in. Vaccaro hit .217, hitting three longballs and driving in 24 runs.
There is plenty of optimism to be had with Bonaventure baseball right now, which wasn’t the case a couple years ago. The MLB calls add even more reason to believe that the Bonnies will be back in the conference title hunt sooner rather than later.