Sonny Ulliana is the starting catcher for the University of Rhode Island baseball team coming into the 2017 season. Ulliana is just a freshman but has the potential and talent to be an immediate impact player and help the Rams make a run for their second consecutive Atlantic 10 Championship.
During the 2016 season, the URI baseball program had a familiar face behind home plate. The Rams relied on Chase Livingston as their starting catcher. Livingston had made 21 starts as a junior during the 2015 season and 44 starts behind the plate in his senior season in 2016. He graduated in the spring of 2016 and then eventually was drafted in the 39th round of the 2016 MLB Draft. Livingston was selected as the 1,183rd pick by the Kansas City Royals.
With Livingston departed, catching was an area of concern for the Rhode Island program during the recruiting season. Ram’s Head Coach Raphael Cerrato and his staff recruited three catchers all apart of the class of 2020.
To start the 2017 campaign the Rams were high on Ulliana. Before the 2017 season began Cerrato was eager to see what Ulliana could bring to the table. “He [Ulliana] has a chance to be a very good player,” Cerrato said. The Rams have one of the best pitching rotations in the Atlantic 10. They needed a two-way catcher that can operate with the pitching dominance and also provide a spark offensively. That is what they found in Ulliana.
Through the first seven games this season, Ulliana is hitting .333 with five RBIs. He has found himself in big situations and has come through for the Rams. Cerrato believes that Ulliana is confident no matter the situation he is hitting in. “We think Sonny is a really good hitter,” Cerrato said. “He’s been batting fourth or fifth as a freshman. We have high expectations. I don’t think it phases him to be in the middle of the lineup as a freshman.”
Ulliana has faith in himself when it comes to being at the plate in a big spot. He said that he was nervous for his first game but quickly became comfortable in his position. “I just know that I am there for a reason,” Ulliana said. “There is nothing to be nervous about.”
Ulliana has been playing baseball since he was six years old so baseball has always been a part of him. After a successful high school career at Bergen Catholic High School in Bergen County, New Jersey, Ulliana had his mind set on playing at the next level. Rhode Island became his new home, and the place where he could potentially make a name for himself on the national scale. Ulliana chose URI over Virginia Tech and Campbell. “This was the best fit,” Ulliana recalled. “URI gave me the best opportunity to help the team as a freshman.”
Freshman starters are not everyday occurrences in college athletics. Ulliana is in a special spot where he is producing against good talent in Division I baseball. However, he never thought he would be in this position. “I always wanted to help the team win,” Ulliana said. “I did not expect anything, I just worked hard. It has paid off.”
Ulliana is a team player. He wants to see the success of the team first while playing the best baseball he can. “I just want to do the best I can,” Ulliana said. “I want to help the team get to that next step and win the A10 and get a regional.”
Rhode Island has started the season off 3-4 and Ulliana is at the center of the team’s offense. The slate does not get any easier for URI as they play two ACC opponents this weekend and then a weekend series at Arkansas looms on March 10. Ulliana and the Rams are poised and ready to go. Despite being a freshman, Ulliana has the chance to be a high impact performer for the next four seasons, and continue a proud tradition of URI catching.