The University of Rhode Island baseball team opens up its 2020 slate on Feb. 14 in Beaumont, Texas facing the Lamar University Cardinals.
The Rams were picked to finish 5th in the Atlantic 10 by D1baseball.com. The Rams also were the only A-10 team to receive votes in the USA Today Preseason Top 25.
“That meant a lot,” Head Coach Raphael Cerrato said. “To be recognized by all the other coaches felt good.”
Rhody has a mix of talented young freshmen and veterans who have played multiple seasons of college baseball. Freshman, and Rhode Island native, Alex Rameriez will get the nod at shortstop for game one.
“Alex earned it in the fall, it’s his spot for the foreseeable future,” added Cerrato. “Along with Alex, this is the best freshman class I’ve had as a head coach.”
Junior Xavier Vargas will return as the team’s starting first baseman, a position he’s held for the last two years.
“We just want to come out strong and get to conference play with a .500 record,” Vargas said.
That feat isn’t as easy as sounds, the Rams won’t play a game at Bill Beck Field until March 18 when they face off against Sacred Heart.
Redshirt sophomore Justin Cherry will take the rubber for the Rams on Friday nights to start the season.
“It’s an honor to be able to pitch on Fridays,” said Cherry. “We’ve had some really good guys that have taken the ball then and now I’m one of them. I’m going to look at this as just another game.”
Sophomore Bo Brutti and senior Tyler Brosius will anchor the Rams bullpen.
“Tyler obviously is our closer and Bo will probably have the eighth inning on the weekends and maybe start some midweek games as well,” Cerrato said.
Rhody will have one of the tougher schedules in their conference. After their opening series against Lamar, who was picked to finish 12th in the Southland Conference despite having three preseason All-Conference members, URI will travel to the University of Maryland to play Big 10 powerhouse Maryland. After that weekend slate, Rhode Island heads out west to the University of Arizona to play three games in five days against an NCAA regional team in Central Michigan and Pacific 12 conference staple Arizona.
At the end of April, the Rams will travel to preseason No. 20 East Carolina. Coming into 2020 the Pirates are the crown jewel of the American Conference. Hosting a regional and a trip to the super regionals in 2019, ECU also has one of the top two-way players in the country in Alec Burrelson.
However, if Rhode Island wants to make an NCAA tournament appearance they are going to have to win the A-10 tournament.
“That’s what we want to do every year,” said Vargas. “To compete and win A-10 championships and get to the College World Series.”