NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk’s Rocco Cundari has spent his entire career getting batters out. The former Brien McMahon High School star is doing it better than he ever has this year as a member of the Southern Connecticut State University baseball team.
Cundari, a junior, has posted a 3-2 record with a 2.17 earned run average in his first five starts with the Owls (10-5), who are third in the East in the latestD2Baseballnews.com regional rankings.
Cundari allowed one run and seven hits in his first two games and has teamed with Trumbull’s Ryan Yerina (4-0) to give Southern one of the best 1-2 punches in the nation.
“I’m more focused and mature,’’ Cundari said in a phone interview from New Haven. “Summer ball last year helped a lot. I played in a league against mostly Division One players, and it was a lot harder. I used that to get ready for this season.”
His experience pitching for the Petersburg Generals in the Coastal Plains League last summer helped him learn to change speeds and use more off-speed pitches, he said.
“Every at-bat was a different sequence,’’ Cundari said. “You couldn’t get them out with all fastballs. I was trying to outsmart them, even throwing back-to-back off speed pitches. Anything I could do to keep batters off balance.”
He has transferred that experience to Southern, where he went 4-6 in 16 games last season. “I wouldn’t say I’m surprised,’’ Cundari said. “I want to get throw strikes and get outs as quickly as I can. I like working quick, getting outs and getting back in the dugout to see my team hit.”
Cundari has known nothing but success since a youngster. He played on several outstanding Norwalk Babe Ruth teams, including the New England Regional runner-ups as a 13-year-old. He twice earned all-state honors at McMahon. Cundari played for one year at Bryant University in Rhode Island before transferring to Southern.
“In high school I threw fastballs just because it was hard to hit,’’ said Cundari, who added 25 pounds on his 6-foot frame after transferring from Bryant. “Now I’m working more off-speed. You can’t waste pitches here. You have to go after guys and throw strikes every pitch.”
He will work the next two years with an eye toward professional baseball. He’s also excited about the prospects for Southern, which has made five NCAA Tournament appearances and two World Series berths under coach Tim Shea.
“If we play the way we can, like we did on Sunday in our first game (a 9-0 win over Assumption) there’s no reason we shouldn’t be a top team in the region and have a chance to get to the World Series,’’ Cundari said. “We’re pitching well, scoring runs and playing great defense. We need to stay focused on every game.”