The man behind the plate for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion Siena baseball team knows that those little things not necessarily found in a boxscore can go a long way in separating the winners from the losers.
Sophomore catcher David Hoffmann, a Niskayuna High School graduate, is one of many role players who have helped the Saints in their unlikely run to just their second trip to the NCAA tournament and their first since 1999.
Siena (26-31) takes on seventh-ranked TCU (42-15) of the Big 12 tonight at 8 at Lupton Field in Fort Worth, Texas.
“We really didn’t have many stars on this team,” said the 6-foot, 175-pound Hoffmann. “I think it showed what kind of team we really are when they announced all the top players at the annual MAAC banquet. We didn’t have the player of the year or any first-team players. We had one second-team guy. We’re the kind of team that grinds out every win.”
The Saints are hitting just .264 with 10 homers. Seven players have at least 20 RBI, but nobody has more than 29. The team’s earned run average is 5.40.
Hoffmann admitted that the Saints didn’t think they had a special team early in the season, when they suffered a long losing streak on their Florida trip.
“Even though most of us had a year of experience under our belts, we were all kind of skeptical early on,” he said. “But once we came back up north and swept Niagara in one of our first league series, we knew we were going to be competitive.”
Hoffmann, like most of his teammates, doesn’t have glowing numbers. He is hitting .250 with 21 RBI. But he is among the team leaders in sacrifice bunts (seven) and handles the pitching staff flawlessly. He’s also made just one error all season.
“I think my strength is the fact that I have a good mental mindset for baseball,” he said. “I’ve been batting eighth most of the season, and it’s been my responsibility to help turn the batting order over or move the runners up with sacrifice bunts. I don’t mind that role one bit. I like to stay on an even keel, not getting too high or too low.”
It’s not surprising that Hoffmann, a lifelong New York Yankees’ fan, has Derek Jeter as his favorite player.
“Derek Jeter is a class act, and he is the ultimate team player,” Hoffmann said.
“I think one of the greatest things about this year’s team is our chemistry. We are a band of brothers. We have two great leaders in captains [MAAC tournament MVP] Vinny Citro and John Rooney. They have carried us through a lot of adversity.”
Hoffmann has also seen his pitching staff mature as the season has progressed.
“Our young guys really came on during the MAAC tournament,” he said. “We had one guy [Schalmont’s Chris Amorosi] who made his first start. Our pitching staff has battled all year long. We have three strong starters [Broadalbin-Perth’s Matt Gage, Bryan Goossens and Ed Lewicki] and several other pitchers who have come on strong for us.”
Hoffmann, the Suburban Council Player of the Year as a senior in high school and a fourth-team all-state selection, said the trip to the NCAA tournament is the completion of a lifelong dream.
“To be a local guy going to the NCAA baseball tournament is a real thrill,” he said. “My mother went to Siena, and I’ve been following Siena basketball all my life. I’ve always had Siena season tickets in basketball, and now I’m going to the NCAAs myself in baseball. It’s hard to believe.”