Maloney Field and the tennis courts are set to be replaced by an eco-space, consisting of a large grassy recreation area, a creek and an amphitheater by 2035 according to the campus master plan. (Travis Wesley/Special to the Golden Gate Xpress)

After making history in 2018, the SF State baseball team heads into the new season with four all-conference players and looks to win its first conference championship since 1983.

The Gators finished last season with a 23-21 conference record and clinched SF State’s first-ever spot in the California Collegiate Athletic Association championship game since they joined the conference in 1999. The last conference title SF State won for baseball was in 1983 when they were part of the Northern California Athletic Conference.

“We’re excited to get the season going,” head coach Tony Schifano said. “We have a junior- and senior-laden team and the experience of last year will help us grow as a program.”

SF State has 10 seniors and 17 juniors on the roster this year, including four 2018 AllCCAA players in infielders Brady Dorn (All-CCAA first team) and Jackson Kritsch (All-CCAA second team), outfielder Jack Harris and first baseman and outfielder Harley Lopez (All-CCAA honorable mentions).

Dorn, Kritsch and Lopez all held batting averages over .300, while Harris led the team with nine home runs last season. Kritsch led the team in several offensive categories, including RBIs (41) and stolen bases (10).

The Gators offense was a strength last season and Schifano believes they will continue to be a solid hitting team, but the group has been actively looking to improve their defense during the offseason.

“Defense is the staple of championships,” the fourthyear head coach said.

SF State’s .959 fielding percentage ranked sixth in the CCAA last season. First baseman Trevor Rodgers had a perfect fielding percentage and turned 15 double plays in his 40 games played in 2018.

The Gators have four incoming freshmen, with three of them joining as pitchers. Schifano explained that his goal in recruiting this offseason was to improve the bullpen since the season is four months long and the team plays four games every weekend.

“These freshmen can step in and give the team some innings so the other guys aren’t exhausted at the end of the season,” Schifano said.

SF State’s 4.81 team ERA ranked fifth in the CCAA, which was led by Jordyn Eglite’s 3.20 ERA in his 18 relief appearances. Sophomores Eglite and Joshua Romero were two players Schifano said will get more opportunities this season after being used in a limited capacity last year for both pitching and hitting.

He explained the starting group is set but players are competing in practice and, with the grind of the long season, a lot of players are going to get an opportunity to take the field.

Assistant coaches Cameron Rowland and Joey Matthews are new additions to the SF State coaching staff. Rowland was the varsity pitching coach for Foothill High School for three seasons. The Pleasanton native transferred from Chabot College to the University of Nevada, where he pitched for the Wolf Pack from 2015-2016.

Matthews was a part of the 2013 Oregon State team that went to the College World Series as an outfielder. He served as an assistant coach from 2014-2017 for Holy Names University.

The Gators begin the 2019 season at home on Feb. 5 in a doubleheader against the Simpson Red Hawks. SF State’s conference schedule starts on Feb. 15 with a four-game series against the Sonoma State Seawolves.

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