Although the SLUH baseball program is losing Nicollerat, who has served as head coach for 39 years, there is an excitement about building onto the tradition that he set for the program.
“Coach (Nicollerat) did a tremendous job for 39 years and established a solid program with great tradition,” said new varsity head coach Ray Bulte. “I am just looking to continue that tradition, carry it on, and step it up as much as we can on our end.”
Although Nicollerat is gone, his tradition will live on. The roster consists of many returning players, including 11 seniors and six juniors.
“We have a really good squad this year with a ton of returners, so there is not a lot of drop off and everyone has had a year to get better,” said senior corner infielder Paul Reddy. “Last year we had a great group of guys with a ton of chemistry, and it was a fun environment. This year I only see that improving.”
“I think we have really good junior and senior leadership, and everyone knows their role on the team,” said senior first baseman and catcher Joe Gilmore.
With this core of returners and rising talent among underclassmen, there was still plenty of room to improve over the offseason following their district championship loss to Vianney last season. The players attended workouts on Sunday nights, as well as weight training after school during the week, with a clear goal in mind.
“Every day, we are focusing on what we are doing, every rep in the cage, every pitch you throw, everything you do defensively has a purpose,” said Bulte. “That purpose is to take us from here to the next level.”
Following the offseason grind, the team is ready to make a name for itself, with high energy and high expectations. With the addition of the new coaching staff and the roster being finalized this past weekend, the coaches revealed a brand new team clubhouse located behind the right field fence of the stadium in a revamped warehouse building.
“Everybody has got cubbies and hangers and it’s super cool because we used to just change in our cars in the parking lot,” said Reddy. “Now we have a place as a team to change, play Xbox, and get hyped before games.”
“We took a look at it in the fall, and it’s kind of a nice little reward for them after working hard every day,” said Bulte. “It is some place that they are able to go as a team to get ready for practice and games. (It promotes) team chemistry, team bonding, and bringing the guys together and having a place we can call home.”
The team has a tournament coming up as soon as spring break. SLUH will be travelling down to Vero Beach, Florida to compete against high schools from Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Florida.
“It was a great trip last year for the team, we really came out of spring training with great team chemistry that carried us through the year,” said Bulte.
The schedule is also highlighted by the Jesuit Classic at the end of March, a trip down to Kentucky for a tournament, and multiple MCC matchups later in the year, including a game against De Smet on Monday, May 6 at which the 100 year anniversary of the SLUH baseball program and Nicollerat’s legacy will be celebrated.
“We want to start to new century off right,” said Gilmore. “Coach Nicollerat did a ton for the program in his 39 years here and really set the path for us. It is going to be a lot different without him being there, but I think the next few years of SLUH baseball are going to be really good.”
The team is ready for play to begin, and with the energy up, they are stopping for nobody.
“This year we have the tangible goal of ‘we want to win state,’” said Reddy. “We’re tired of hearing how good CBC is. We got some ballers over here at the U High, and a whole bag of chips on our shoulders.”