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Athlete of the Week: Dominic Pieto

Last updated on Apr 22, 2024

By Ella Barrington, Staff Writer

Dominic Pieto, a communications major from Cranberry Township, Pa., set a program record on March 22. Striking out 17 batters throughout eight innings, the redshirt junior led the Sharks to a 14-6 victory over the Norfolk State Spartans. 

“It was kind of just a normal game. We went in kind of knowing it was not as probably a bottom team in the conference going into the weekend, but just kind of had the idea of going out and doing what I’ve been doing, just sticking to the game plan,” he said

 Going into the game, Pieto asked his coach what the most strikeouts he had ever seen, not knowing that he was about to break the program record with 17 strikeouts. 

“We jokingly talked with our coach before the game, saying ‘What’s the most strikeouts you’ve ever seen in a game?’ Because it was a doubleheader that day and our starter, game one had like eight strikeouts through four innings, and we said ‘He might throw a lot today.’ And he ended up stopping at nine, he was like ‘I don’t remember what the most I’ve ever seen was.’ And I, of course, go out and I had nine through five innings, and I was cruising. [Coach] comes up to me at the seventh inning, and he says, ‘Alright, you got one more inning. We don’t want you to throw too many pitches.’ And I had no idea what the record was. I went out for the eighth, struck out the second batter of the inning, and I heard the broadcast up in the press box, ‘Pieto now ties the record.’ And I was like, ‘wait, what I just tied a record?'” Pieto said. “And then I went into a one-two count with the next batter. And they’re like ‘Pieto moves one strike away.’ And I was like ‘Oh crap, now I really gotta throw this pitch hard.’ And of course, he ends up swinging, missing and I just hear everyone kind of go crazy. And it didn’t register in my brain until after the game when the umpire tells me to throw the ball in and the game ends and they’re like ‘Dude, that was a record, that’s insane.’ I didn’t even know until it happened, it was kind of a surreal moment,” Pieto recalled. 

Pieto was introduced to LIU at the beginning of his senior year of high school when he went to an LIU baseball camp, where the coaches ended up liking his game and offered him a spot on the team. He called it a “perfect storm.” 

“Recruiting was a weird process for me, I would consider myself kind of a late bloomer. I wasn’t really recruited early on in high school. And in my junior year, I started getting a little bigger, a little stronger and started playing well. And I went to a camp up on campus right in the beginning of senior year. The coaches liked me, and I came back and did a visit with the former coach, Coach Gaffney, who gave me the offer and it was a perfect scenario,” he said. “I mean, I love the campus, the field was great, and it was an opportunity to live out my dream of playing division one baseball.”

Going into freshman year, Pieto was both a batter and a pitcher but after the conference tournament his freshman year, he began falling in love with pitching, which he hadn’t always felt. 

“For me, I came in as a two-way, trying to hit and pitch, and with COVID, we didn’t have out-of-conference games, it was all-conference. So there were limited opportunities, but I was able to pitch in the conference tournament my freshman year… The stats will show you that I only had eight and two-thirds innings. But it was a big learning curve for me, and I was able to kind of take that and run with it into summer ball,” Pieto continued. “I really fell in love with the side of pitching, which I never really loved in high school, I was always like a hitter first kind of threw just because it was a necessity. And now, obviously, four years later, it’s a lot different scenario where I’m a full-fledged PO and I’m sure if you asked any of the guys on the team, they’re like ‘Yeah, Dom’s a pitcher.’”

Yet, Pieto’s journey hasn’t been without its challenges. A setback during his sophomore year occurred on Feb. 10, 2022, a week before the Sharks’ first game. 

“In practice, I felt the pop in my elbow and kind of shut it down. The process kind of started off with getting the MRIs and X-rays and with everything they told me, I had a partially torn UCL, which requires Tommy John surgery to get back from so it was Feb. 10, that injury happened and I got surgery on March 8. So I took the summer, really built myself back up, went through the rehab process and then got back into the competitive mindset of it all and then was able to be ready for game one and pitch in the first game of junior year. It was a long process, but one that I would credit a lot of my success to because I learned a lot about myself, learned a lot about recovery, and taking care of my body. And now it’s working out in the best way possible,” Pieto said.

Despite the challenges, Dom’s love for the game didn’t diminish. He looks forward to each day on the field with optimism and thankfulness, valuing the friendships and competition of college baseball.

“I definitely plan on playing another year, whether it’s here or somewhere else, or I mean, the dream is always to play at the professional level. I’m just taking it one day at a time. We have opportunities every day on the baseball field, whether it be practice or games, and I’m just trying to enjoy it all. Baseball has been a part of my life since I was four years old. So just trying to enjoy it all. It’s one of my last few years of collegiate baseball and I’m just trying to enjoy it all, take it one day at a time and enjoy every step of it, the process of the games off the field stuff with the guys. Some of them I’m going to cherish for the rest of my life so I’m just trying to take it one day at a time and enjoy it all.”

The quoted material contained in this article was courtesy of 88.1 FM WCWP’s “Sports Shark Tank,” with the original episode airing on April 3, 2023. The “Sports Shark Tank” airs Monday through Thursday from 1-2 p.m. on 88.1 FM and 

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