Led by veteran coach, young Sagehen baseball team eyes SCIAC title

Tyler Yoshihara PO ’20 attempts to throw out a Centenary player during the Sagehens’ 7-4 victory on Friday, March 8. (Adam Kubota • The Student Life)

Pomona-Pitzer head baseball coach Frank Pericolosi started coaching baseball abroad in 2000 before taking over the Sagehen program in 2003. He still spends his summers in Sweden and Italy, but Claremont always draws him back.

Perhaps it’s because the years have proved rewarding: He picked up his 400th win with the Sagehens (8-3, 4-2 SCIAC) two weeks ago against La Verne. Or maybe it’s the athletes and schools themselves.

“I love the institutions that I work for, and I like the kids that these schools attract to the program,” Pericolosi said. He said he likes to coach well-rounded players and people who are both academically and athletically motivated.

“[Pericolosi] really cares about us outside of baseball,” pitcher Ryan Long PO ’21 said. “He understands and cares about our academics and lets us have time for them. Having a coach that cares about you outside of the sport is really cool and unique.”

Tyler Yoshihara PO ’20 delivers a pitch as the infield watches during the Sagehens’ 7-4 victory on Friday, March 8. (Adam Kubota • The Student Life)

Pericolosi emphasizes a “player-oriented” program in which he hopes all athletes can have a positive experience and be part of a group they are proud of. Over time, he has worked to understand the high demands of academics and extracurriculars at the 5Cs, and structures his program to support athletes accordingly.

“One thing that makes our program unique in the SCIAC is the fact that I don’t think many other coaches would be able to adapt to some of the course loads or work commitments that we have here,” outfielder Brian Knapp PO ’20 said.

Both Knapp and Long said having a coach who is dedicated to the same goals as the athletes — and has also shown a long term commitment to the program — is motivating.

While the team only has one senior, there’s no lack of leadership, thanks to a strong junior class. Both Pericolosi and Long agreed that the juniors serve as great role models for the rest of the group and lead by example.

“I think the upperclassmen and coach have cultivated a very healthy atmosphere this year more than ever that has encouraged every player on the team to buy in,” Knapp said. “It’s easier to win games when you know everyone has bought in.”

Jack Damelio PO ’22 swings at a pitch during the Sagehens’ 7-4 victory vs. Centenary on Friday, March 8. (Adam Kubota • The Student Life)

The team is all-in with one goal — ending the regular season on top of the SCIAC, and going on to win the SCIAC tournament title. While the Sagehens started the season ranked in the middle of the conference, Pericolosi sees the current group of teams as very evenly matched.

“I don’t think any team in the SCIAC is unbeatable, and I think we have enough talent in the locker room to win the championship,” Pericolosi said. “But I also know that many other teams in the league have enough talent to win. It will all come down to which team is willing to fight to win close games.”

Long agreed that the Sagehens have the personnel necessary to win the title.

“We aren’t arrogant, but we do have a sense of confidence that we can win,” Knapp said. “I like our chances.”

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