Raphael Cerrato, Rhode Island Rams

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Raphael Cerrato was named interim head coach of the Rhode Island Rams on July 17, 2014 and following a successful first season with the Rams officially became the program’s permanent head coach on June 23, 2015.

With the interim tag lifted and a core group of players returning in 2016, Cerrato’s Rams won seven of their eight conference series en route to a 18-6 mark in league play as well as the Atlantic 10 regular-season title. It was Rhody’s first outright Atlantic 10 regular-season title since 2006. Making the program’s second-ever appearance in an NCAA regional, the fourth-seeded Rams were sent to the Columbia Regional, where they opened the tournament with a 5-4 win over top-seeded South Carolina. The win over the Gamecocks – who were ranked sixth in the nation at the time – marked Rhode Island’s first NCAA postseason victory.

Highlighting the historical season for the Rams was a wide array of recognition, including Cerrato’s second consecutive A-10 Coach of the Year award. Sophomore Tyler Wilson also collected a pair of First Team All-America nods – in addition to NEIBA and Atlantic 10 Pitcher of the Year honors – while junior Martin Figueroa, redshirt sophomore Chris Hess and sophomore Jordan Powell all earned All-New England accolades. Additionally, two graduating seniors moved on to the minors as Chase Livingston was drafted by the Kansas City Royals and Steve Moyers signed with the Seattle Mariners.

During his interim season, Cerrato led URI to a 26-25-1 overall record (15-9 Atlantic 10) after the team had gone 13-40 (7-18) and failed to qualify for the conference tournament the year before. Rhody’s first victory under Cerrato’s direction was a 6-3 upset over 11th-ranked North Carolina.

The Rams went on to open their 2015 Atlantic 10 schedule with a series loss at Saint Louis, but bounced back with six consecutive conference series wins – including a three-game sweep of Saint Joseph’s and a pair of 2-1 road weekends at both Richmond and 2015 NCAA Super Regional participant VCU.

Overall, Rhode Island finished just one game behind regular season champion Saint Louis and – with a strong core of veteran players and a talented class of newcomers – played its way into the finals of the Atlantic 10 Championship. Despite falling to VCU, 5-3, it was clear that the team had taken a huge step forward in advancing to its first A-10 final since 2009.

The impressive turnaround quickly earned Cerrato the respect of his peers, who voted him the Atlantic 10’s Coach of the Year – just a few months after picking URI to finish 11th of 13 in the league’s preseason coaches poll.

The postseason recognition did not end there, however. Freshman Tyler Wilson became the Atlantic 10’s first freshman ever to earn both Pitcher and Rookie of the Year accolades. He and fellow freshman Chris Hess both were first-team All-Conference selections as well as Louisville Slugger Freshmen All-Americans. It marked the first time in the history of the Rhody baseball program that multiple freshmen earned All-America honors in the same season.

Wilson also collected ECAC and NEIBA Rookie of the Year honors, in addition to landing a spot on the ABCA/Rawlings All-Northeast Region Team.

Cerrato, who served as URI’s top assistant and recruiting coordinator from 2012-14, was responsible for bringing in nearly all of the players on Rhode Island’s 2015 squad, including San Diego Padres draft pick Lou Distasio. Cerrato further proved his ability to recruit top-notch student-athletes with the signing of Seamus Curran, who became Rhode Island’s highest-ever MLB Draft pick as an incoming freshman when he was selected in the eighth round of the 2015 Draft, by the Baltimore Oriels.

As an assistant, Cerrato worked specifically with the team’s infielders and hitters and guided the Rams to a new single-season record for fielding percentage (.970) in 2013. Additionally, All-American and MLB draftee Jeff Roy recorded the program’s second-best single-season performance in both hits (84) and runs scored (59) in 2012.

A volunteer assistant for the Rams during the 1997 season, Cerrato returned to Kingston in 2012, after spending the previous five years as the head coach at New Haven. There, he led the Chargers to a 131-97 (.575) from 2007-11 and guided the club to the 2010 NCAA Tournament.

In his time at New Haven, Cerrato saw All-American closer Mitch Rossi become the program’s all-time leader in saves while catcher Michael Moras was selected in the 2008 MLB Draft.

Cerrato was just the second head coach in the history of the New Haven’s baseball program, replacing 44-year skipper Frank “Porky” Vieira, on July 1, 2006. He had joined Vieira’s staff as the associate head coach in June of 2005, following a five-year stint as an assistant coach at Brown University. There, he served as the Bears’ hitting, outfield and infield instructor and coordinated student-athlete recruitment.

Before his time at Brown, Cerrato spent three years as the top assistant at Massachusetts.

An Enfield, Conn. native, Cerrato was a member of the Rhody baseball team from 1989-93. He captained the Rams in 1993 and was an Atlantic 10 All-Conference pick in 1992.

About the author, Bill

Bill Ballew has been involved with collegiate and professional baseball since 1983. He has been the Atlanta correspondent for Baseball America since 1991 and has served as the editorial content manager for Baseball The Magazine for more than five years. He is a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA), National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).