‘An amazing feeling’
Rafalski to continue baseball career at Mercyhurst University
Great players put themselves in position to succeed through hard work and dedication.
So it should come as no surprise when Warren Area High School senior Ryan Rafalski delivered arguably the biggest hit in Dragon baseball history last season, a walk-off single to win the District 10 title over General McLane.
All of that hard work has paid off in more ways than one, as Rafalski recently signed his National Letter of Intent to continue his baseball career at Mercyhurst University.
“It means a lot,” he said. “All of our hard work has paid off. We’re all going to great schools, great baseball programs.”
He was also referring to senior teammates Mitch Grosch, Nick Hussey and Hunter Loomis. Grosch will join him at Mercyhurst, while Loomis signed with Niagara County Community College and Hussey with Mercyhurst North East.
The son of Jason and Samantha had a stellar junior season for the Dragons both on the mound and at the plate.
He became a workhorse, leading a talented pitching staff with 55 innings pitched. He allowed just 37 hits and struck out 56, compiling a 1.91 ERA and a .178 batting average against.
At the plate, his 19 RBI were tied for second on the team, including a memorable game against Bradford when he homered and drove in seven. He did all of this while also establishing himself as one of District 10’s premier shortstops.
His father, who serves as an assistant for the Dragons, also played collegiately, and Ryan sites him as his biggest influence, sharing the game they both love.
“He’s been my biggest influence,” Ryan said. “He’s been there since day one, teaching me, coaching me, always making me strive to be better and to get where I’m at today.”
At Mercyhurst, he will be part of a strong pipeline. Not only will he be joined by his high school and travel teammates, Grosch, but they carry on a strong tradition of Warren to Mercyhurst that also recently includes former Minnesota Twins farmhand Hank Morrison, Collin Fantaskey and Matt Jaskolka.
Joe Spano has built one of the best Division II programs in the country, taking the Lakers to a pair of College World Series appearances, including their first-ever trip to the Final Four in 2019.
That, among many other factors, played a key role for Rafalski.
“It’s close to home and they are doing great work with their program,” he said. “They’ve had a lot of success the past few years. Mercyhurst is really the only one that recruited me hard. They wanted me there from the beginning. I really appreciate that and that’s why I chose them.”
And, while he is looking forward to playing at the collegiate level, there are a multitude of experiences he is excited to embark on.
“I’m looking forward to meeting new friends at college, eventually with a good major and get a good job out of school,” he said.
He is looking forward to college, but Rafalski and his classmates still have a lot to look forward to the rest of their senior years.
Chief among them is defending their District 10 title, something they are certainly capable of doing.
More than that, the leaders on this team want to leave a lasting legacy.
“Always put in the extra effort to become a better player, never slack off and always do your best,” he said of the advice he has for his younger teammates.
Rafalski and his fellow seniors are also following in an impressive line of recent Dragons who have gone on to have success at the college level.
It’s something he feels proud to be a part of
“It’s an amazing feeling,” he said. “Following other great athletes coming through and then other great athletes coming through to continue the program at Warren.”