It’s not that John Bellino and his St. Bede baseball team doesn’t care about the regular season.
It’s just the Bruins view it as preparation for the postseason.
With seven starters returning from last year’s team that went 20-9 but lost in the regional final, this year’s St. Bede squad has its eye on the postseason prize and is aiming to win the program’s third regional title in the last four seasons.
“With Bellino, it’s always about the regional,” senior second baseman Sam Lucas said. “He’s been here forever and has kind of learned to not be so preoccupied with the regular season. He just wants to use it as a way for us to improve throughout the season. His ultimate goal — and really his only goal — is to win the regional and, if we get that, then he wants us to maximize our potential and advance as far as we can.”
Any accomplishments during the regular season are just added bonuses.
“For us, it’s always been the same thing: we look to get ready for the last three games of the year,” said Bellino, referring to the regional. “Last year we fell just a little short (in the regional final) and I kind of blame myself for that. We had the lead and should’ve won that regional, but really that’s our goal this year is to win a regional.”
Despite having just 11 kids on the roster, the Bruins return a strong core.
This season St. Bede has nine seniors and welcomes back the seven starters from last year’s team, led by senior center fielder Brad Groleau.
Last season, the three-year varsity player was fourth in the area in hitting (.485) and RBI (42), while on the rubber he was ninth in the area with a 1.75 ERA. For his play, he was named NewsTribune First-Team All-Area as an outfielder.
This season, Groleau will return as the center fielder and in the No. 3 spot in the SBA lineup while also serving as one of five Bruin pitchers.
However, Groleau is far from alone.
Both Lucas (.393 average) and senior shortstop Bobby Morrow (.375 average) return in the middle of the infield and atop the Bruin lineup after each were NT Second-Team All-Area players last spring.
Also back is senior catcher Stephen Ebner, as well as senior third baseman Brandon Pietrowski.
The team does have to find a new first baseman, which will likely be senior Logan Bima or junior Michael Bellino.
Joining Groleau in the outfield is a combination of seniors Jake Postula, Austin Schwab and Lucas, as well as sophomore Jack Brady.
“I really think we have guys at the top of the lineup who can get on base, like Sam and Bobby,” Bima said. “We have a lot of guys who can put the ball in play, and we don’t really have a lot of guys who strikeout a lot. We should have a lot of balance top to bottom.”
The key this season is the pitching staff, which lost its top two pitchers from last season and has been hit hard by graduation each of the past two years.
While John Bellino still doesn’t know who his ace will be, Pietrowski and Groleau return after serving as the Nos. 3-4 pitchers last season.
In addition, senior Damin Smith — who was primarily a relief pitcher last season — returns this season, as will Bima and Michael Bellino.
All are expected to throw plenty during the first part of the season.
“We’re looking for a No. 1 pitcher, and we had some problems with that last year,” said John Bellino, whose team is without junior pitchers Taggart Venegas — who transferred to Hall — and Ethan Duttlinger, who did not come out for baseball.
The Bruins open their season March 22 at La Salle-Peru.
“We’re further along this year than we were last year just because I think you have more confidence in what the kids did last year,” John Bellino said. “If we get outside for two, three days, we should be pretty much ready to go.”
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.