Fresh Faces: Freshman baseball players talk adjusting to college life, balancing academics, athletics


Nina Martinez / Hilltop Views

Freshmen Zarian Forde and Dominic Ragazzo look to be promising pieces for the St. Edward’s baseball program for years to come.

Making the transition from high school baseball to the competitive collegiate field can be difficult. Zarian Forde and Dominic Ragazzo are finding their niche as freshman student-athletes on the St. Edward’s University baseball team.

Forde, a center fielder and pinch-runner from Houston, Texas, announced his commitment to SEU after finishing his last season at Westside High School last year. Forde is currently majoring in kinesiology, pre-physical therapy. 

“I wanted to stay connected to sports in some way. I thought that because it’s a growing job industry, it’s not only good to have a decent career, but to also do what I love,” Forde says. 

From Leona Valley, California, Ragazzo traveled to Texas after signing to play as a right fielder for the Hilltoppers. According to Ragazzo, he “came out of the womb” ready to play. After an injury in his calf during his junior year of high school, Ragazzo needed surgery. 

“the whole process of getting diagnosed and healing really inspired me,” Ragazzo says. This sparked his interest in kinesiology. “I’m striving for my Ph.D. and am aiming toward becoming an orthopedic doctor,” he adds. 

Exercising their physical and mental strengths day in and day out, these boys go the distance with help from their families and coaches. 

“My mother pushes me the hardest,” Forde says. Ragazzo joined his older brother, infielder and sophomore Ryan, on the field. He says Ryan pushes him the most.

“We’re student-athletes,” Forde says, “and in student-athletes, ‘student’ comes first.” 

Ragazzo says that head coach Rob Penders ensures his players are the best student-athletes they can be.

“Being a student-athlete here is a struggle, but it’s really helpful because our coaches know the student portion goes first and it pushes us to go beyond our learning capability,” Ragazzo says. “Penders makes sure that even on game days, we go to class and do not leave unless we absolutely have to. He also has pretty strict rules on grades,” Forde says. The team strives to have an average GPA of 3.5 altogether. 

For their first season as Hilltoppers, the boys have learned a lot on and off the field. 

“Personally, I need to work on hitting the ball the other way,” Forde says. Ragazzo says his particular goal for this season and the next is to work on staying through the ball and going up the middle when hitting. 

Although getting a lot better compared to earlier in the year, Forde says as a team, “We can cut down on free bases, and, offensively speaking, we could be more aggressive in hitters’ counts.” Ragazzo believes the team is lacking in confidence levels and should enter each game “thinking we’re the best team ever, and everyone loves us.” 

In their last game of the season against No.1 Angelo State, the Hilltoppers won two games and lost two games. SEU managed to shut down the top-ranked hitter in Division II, Josh Elvir with a batting average of .477  as he went 0-4. 

A frustrating part of being a student-athlete is time management. With weights at 11 a.m., practice at 3 p.m. and classes and three-hour labs in between, it can be difficult to find time to eat and rest amid this taxing schedule. Although the second semester has been less demanding, Forde and Ragazzo have their families, coaches and teammates to thank for helping them along the way.