Jason Szafarski, a veteran college and summer league coach, heads into his third season as head coach of the Saint Michael's baseball team during the 2018-19 school year.
Szafarski recruited a school-record 17-man rookie class for the 2018 squad, including 16 first-years. Twelve hailed from outside the region, including five from the baseball hotbed of Florida. The Purple Knights, who played a program-record-tying 41 games, set marks for saves (6) and pitching strikeouts (231) while yielding a .286 opposing batting average, their lowest in 12 years. They also cut more than two runs from their prior year's earned run average and matched their highest fielding percentage (.947) in five seasons. At the plate, their 125 bases on balls were their most in six seasons, they tied for third with 54 doubles, and the 54 bases the Purple Knights stole were four short of a 1994 standard. Saint Michael's played 21 games decided by three runs or fewer, swept a three-game series at Northeast-10 Conference counterpart Assumption College, and played four combined two-run games against perennial regional powers Franklin Pierce University and Southern New Hampshire University. Szafarski helped place more than a dozen student-athletes with summer programs following the season.
In his debut spring of 2017, the Purple Knights fielded a 22-man roster that counted 14 underclassmen. Saint Michael's went 3-3 down the stretch, including winning a three-game series from Stonehill College to keep the Skyhawks from earning the final postseason bid in the Northeast-10 Conference Northeast Division. On the last day of the season, the Purple and Gold scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings against Saint Anselm College before winning 6-5 in 10. Drew Farris '19 led NCAA Division II by yielding only 0.47 walks per nine innings and taking fourth in strikeout-to-walk ratio (9.5), while Patrick Martin '18 was 11th in BB/9 (1.12).
Szafarski served as an assistant coach and the recruiting coordinator at fellow NCAA Division II member Eckerd (Fla.) College for the two years immediately prior to landing at Saint Michael's. His debut season in 2015 included 20 wins, one of which was an upset of fourth-ranked Nova Southeastern (Fla.) University during league play in the powerful Sunshine State Conference (SSC). In addition to working with hitters and catchers, Szafarski oversaw the recruiting process for a program that draws student-athletes not only from Florida but New England, New York, the Midwest, the Mid-Atlantic and other areas of the Southeast.
A regular in summer coaching circles, Szafarski was head coach of the Upper Valley Nighthawks of the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) in summer 2017 and 2018. In 2017, the Nighthawks won the NECBL Northern Division at 29-15 before falling in the divisional championship series to eventual league champion Valley Blue Sox. Szafarski headed the Brockton (Mass.) Rox of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL) in 2015 and 2016, leading the Rox to a combined 61-51 mark. Szafarski and the Rox qualified for the postseason both years. In 2015, he was named FCBL Co-Manager of the Year after a 34-22 performance. Szafarski was head coach of the Montauk (N.Y.) Mustangs of the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League (HCBL) during summer 2014. In their debut season, the Mustangs led the HCBL in fielding percentage (.963).
Szafarski spent the 2014 season as an assistant coach at Division II power University of Tampa, as the Spartans went 54-4, were ranked No. 1 in the nation for much of the spring, won the NCAA South Regional Tournament and advanced as far as the semifinals of the Division II College World Series. Tampa led the SSC with a school-record .972 fielding percentage. During the previous summer, Szafarski served as an assistant coach with the NECBL's North Adams (Mass.) SteepleCats, mentoring hitters and infielders. North Adams claimed the NECBL's individual batting champion and the league lead in fielding percentage (.974).
In 2012 and 2013, Szafarski was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Saint Petersburg (Fla.) College, a National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I institution that averaged 21.0 wins during his two seasons. Between 2008 and 2013, he worked with USA Baseball as a scout, site supervisor and trials coach in Cary, N.C., assisting in the selection of a 16U National Team that won five straight gold medals.
Between 2007 and 2016, Szafarski was a teacher for Pinellas County Schools in Florida, at Dixie Hollins High School and Seminole High School. He was Dixie Hollins' baseball head coach in 2011 and 2012, which followed two seasons as head coach at Boca Ciega High School. Szafarski spent 2007 and 2008 as a Seminole High assistant.
A former college infielder at Post University and the State University of New York at Oswego, the Arcade, N.Y., native graduated from SUNY Oswego in 2007 with a degree in adolescent education. He completed his master's degree in sports management from Southern New Hampshire University in 2016.