The more than four-hour bus ride from West Point to Annapolis gave Jon Rosoff ample time for reflection.
Rosoff and his teammates are two wins away from Army baseball’s first Patriot League title and NCAA Division I tournament appearance since 2013. The Black Knights have made significant strides since Rosoff’s sophomore season.
Army was 16-32 when Rosoff started splitting time at catcher, a position that he had played sparingly in college showcases before attending West Point. Two years later, Rosoff was not only named the Patriot League’s top catcher but also its most valuable player.
“The goal the entire year has been to win a Patriot League championship and get to regionals,” said Rosoff, a senior who is hitting .351 with 43 RBI, both team highs. “No matter how I did, it was never about personal stats or anything like that. It was about winning that championship. It's all about making the guys around me better. That (the MVP) was a byproduct.”
Now the Black Knights must go through rival Navy to achieve Rosoff’s goal. The service academies are meeting in the best-of-three championship series for the first time since 2011 — Navy won that playoff in three games.
Army defeated Navy twice at Baltimore’s Camden Yards to start the season series in March. Navy answered with three wins last month, including one meeting at Boston’s Fenway Park.
“I think we hyped up the Navy series a little bit too much,” Rosoff said. “We get kind of amped up and out of control. We just have to realize they are just another team. Yeah, it's Army-Navy, but don't let any of the external pressures or anything else make it more than it is because it's just a game.”
Rosoff was recruited to play shortstop at Army. He started 47 games, including 42 at third base, as a freshman. Rosoff was in Army’s starting lineup at catcher (23 games), third base (12), left field (2), center field (1) and right field (1) for his sophomore season. He’s been Army’s “Iron Man” the last two seasons, starting 103 of 111 games behind the plate. He has thrown out 16 runners attempting to steal and picked off another two this season.
“I always loved to throw,’’ he said. “That's the one thing I was always good at, throwing a baseball. I think it benefited me playing the infield and multiple positions. It kept me on my toes and it didn't limit me.”
Rosoff, one of two seniors on Army’s roster, recalled a speech he gave last August when the team first got together. “Don't be happy with where you are,” he told his teammates. “You deserve more. We all deserve more. If you become satisfied, then you have lost.”
There’s an understanding between each player on the ultimate goal and the task at hand, Rosoff said.
“This year's team, when we get on the bus to go play somewhere, we expect to win,” Rosoff said. “We are going to do whatever we can and we are going to play our best. I think last year, there were times where it was being there to be there to get away from West Point. You could feel that. The energy during the games was noticeable because of that.
“I think that's the biggest difference between this group of guys compared to last year. We are all hungry. We all want the same thing.’’