Hofstra baseball swings for the fences


The Hofstra baseball team missed out on a chance to defend its conference title last year and is fueled for a return to the championship stage in late May this spring.

After reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history during a magical 2022 season, the Pride bats were driven back to earth in 2023 with an eighth-place finish that left the team just short of qualifying for its league’s six-team double-elimination tournament held Memorial Day weekend.

This season the Pride were picked ninth in the 12 team Coastal Athletic Association and is looking to prove the doubters wrong to have an opportunity to once again compete for the conference’s automatic bid into the NCAAs. 

“We got off to a slow start and then towards the end of the season we started playing better and we just missed out on making the tournament,” said third-year Hofstra head coach Frank Catalanotto, a former 14-year Major League Baseball player from 1997 to 2010 with the Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays, Milwaukee Brewers and New York Mets. “It's a motivating factor for not only the coaching staff, but also for the student athletes to be ready to play these games.” 

Hofstra began the 2024 season with two narrow losses to then 14th-ranked Virginia before taking two of three from Liberty and New Mexico on the road the following two weekends. The Pride entered the start of CAA with two close losses at Columbia and Fordham. 

Senior catcher Matt Pelcher, a Merrick native, has emerged as one of Hofstra’s leading hitters this season with a .328 average entering the CAA schedule. Pelcher, who played high school baseball at the prestigious IMG Academy in Florida, hit a home run in an 10-8 season-opening loss at Virginia and went 3-for-4 in a narrow 3-2 defeat at St. John’s on March 8.

“He’s made big strides with his swing and has really bought into what we've been teaching,” said Catalanotto of Pelcher, who registered an RBI double in Hofstra’s 12-8 loss at Columbia on March 19. “He's a big part of what we do and his versatility helps us out quite a bit.”

Pelcher is among four starters hitting above .300, including sophomore Dylan Palmer at a team-leading .450 starting the conference schedule. He earned Second Team All-CAA and CAA All-Rookie honors as a freshman. Senior outfielder Alex McCoy and graduate student third baseman Santino Ross are also shining offensively so far with .364 and .386 batting averages, respectively. 

Catalanotto is also hoping two of his other top hitters, Will Kennedy and Steve Harrington, can produce during the CAA schedule after hitting slumps in March. 

The pitching staff is led by senior Michael O'Hanlon, who recorded seven strikeouts in a 9-1 victory against Manhattan College on March 15. O’Hanlon has stepped into the ace role after serving as the closer the last two years. 

The Pride has a number of pitching options out of the bullpen including Rockville Centre native Danny Kelleher, a former South Side High School standout who tossed three scoreless innings in a 9-6 loss at New Mexico on March 3. Catalanotto is hoping Kelleher can continue to make strides on the mound and live up to his full potential. 

“He's been doing a good job and he's gotten much better from last year,” Catalanotto said of Kelleher. “He's throwing a lot of two seam fastballs that sink and also a good changeup so he's keeping the ball down and getting ground balls.”

Another local arm on the roster is freshman Nick Apollo, who earned All-County accolades at Seaford High School last year and led the Vikings to a county title. The versatile Apollo, who Catalanotto sees potential in for a strong future, received playing time at first base in a 17-6 loss to Manhattan on March 16.

“It’s a really tough conference,” Catalanotto said of the CAA, which added last year’s 22nd-ranked team Campbell this season. “We are going to have to bring our best every single game.”