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Power at the plate
Quinnipiac baseball sophomore Liam Scafariello is hitting his way into the record books
It almost seemed effortless.
A power step forward, twist of the hips and an incredible display of bat speed. That was the split-second motion before the baseball sailed past Quinnipiac’s left field wall, over 350 feet away from the point of contact.
But that’s been the norm this season for Quinnipiac baseball sophomore Liam Scafariello, who leads the Bobcats with more than triple the home runs of any other player on the team.
“He has some power that is kind of unheard of for this region,” Quinnipiac baseball head coach John Delaney said. “I’ve never coached a kid that has as much power as he has, and to be honest, I’ve never faced anyone in the region in my short coaching career that has showcased as much as he has.”
Carrying a 6-foot-4, 260-pound frame, it’s hard to miss Scafariello, but it might be even harder to ignore his name on the batting side of the stat-sheet. Through 37 games this season, Scafariello has a whopping 13 home runs, 28 RBI and a .610 slugging percentage.
And this is just his first season playing Division I baseball.
After his senior year at Southington High School in Southington, Scafariello spent his freshman season at San Jacinto College, a junior college in Houston, Texas.
While playing out west, Scafariello experienced a “different part of baseball”, but knew Connecticut was where he ultimately needed to be.
“In Texas last year…the vibes weren’t that good. It was different and it was far from home. My family wasn’t able to come out as much as I’d like them to.” Scafariello said. “But this year, I come home and have my family behind me. It’s just the best feeling.”
As the season has progressed to its midway point, the sense of regained at-homeness from his family has not only translated into big numbers offensively, but it has spread right into his Bobcats family as well.
“He’s just been a fun kid to be around,” senior captain Matt Batten said. “He’s very loose and easy going. Obviously, you can see offensively he has power numbers that can match anybody in the country.”
Batten wasn’t exaggerating when he put Scafariello up with big time hitters in college baseball. Atypical to the majority of Quinnipiac baseball players, Scafariello came into Division I play already drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 38th round of the 2015 MLB Draft.
But while there is no doubt in the power behind his swing, there is still work to be done in his game. For the majority of the season, Scafariello took on the designated hitter (DH) role for Quinnipiac, since Ben Gibson already claimed his listed position at first base.
“His power was always there, but there were other parts of his game that needed to improve — his defense and becoming a higher hitter for average,” Delaney added. “The advantage of being able to come to college, for him, is to be able to develop his tools a lot more,…increase his draft stock and give himself [the opportunity] to be more successful in his professional career. Bringing a talent like that is what we want to do and we just want to develop him and give him the best chance as he can down the road.”
Becoming a bonafide well-rounded player is the first step in his progression. After primarily serving as the DH until mid-April, Scafariello has found a spot as Quinnipiac’s right fielder, where he is yet to make an error and has recorded 63 putouts.
Subsequently, he continues to utilize his booming bat at a historic pace.
In Quinnipiac’s 13-1 victory over Saint Peter’s on Saturday, Scafariello homered for the 13th time this season, moving him into sole position of third place on Quinnipiac’s all-time and Division I (since 1999) single-season home run list. Behind only Joe Zangari (16 HR in 1999) and Nate Noyes (18 HR in 1999).
It isn’t crazy to think that Scafariello could break those records.
Despite his lack of experience at the Division I level, Scafariello’s remarkable start to the season isn’t just go down in the Quinnipiac record books, but it is already drawing comparisons to other New England-area baseball greats.
“I think the only guy that comes close to that is Chris Shaw that played over at Boston College a couple of years ago [and] ended up going in the first round,” Delaney said. “Liam just has tremendous bat speed. He’s able to generate so much power and he’s obviously a big kid that is able to use it to his advantage.”
Additionally, he already leads the MAAC in home runs, possesses the second-best conference slugging percentage (.619) and has 28 RBI, good enough for fifth in the MAAC.
Although his booming frame appears strictly tough when crushing baseballs from a distance, Scafariello has a lighter side to him. He knows exactly how to separate his on-field mean streak from his unique and relaxed mentality off the field.
When he steps up to the plate, teammates are eager to see what might happen next.
“I think Liam, in some ways, just keeps you loose and keeps it exciting because you never know,” Batten said. “At any moment he could hit a ball 500 feet, which is something I wish I had.”
As the Bobcats enter Wednesday’s contest against UMass Amherst with a 14-23 overall record and only 10 regular season games left, Scafariello knows his powerful offensive role is as important as ever.
“It’s part of my game,” Scafariello said. “It’s my biggest attribute [and] hopefully I can drive in runs that way.”