Like baseball, Rhode Island head coach Jim Foster knows first-hand that raising awareness and funds for Autism is a team game. 

Foster became personally involved with the cause when his youngest daughter Delaney was diagnosed with Autism Disorder when she was two years old. Autism is a developmental disorder that affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills.

“She had a lot help from different teachers and people that came to the house,” Foster said.  “She has a whole game plan to help her reach her potential. Meeting these people throughout the years, we got involved in the Autism Project of Rhode Island, and Autism Speaks and I got asked to speak at a few banquets. It just kind of evolved.”

Four years ago, Foster and his team began holding an Autism Awareness game, and they were thrilled to raise $700 for the cause, mainly with the help of team parent volunteers. The annual event has grown over the years, and at the Temple game on April 30, the URI baseball team brought in over $4,000 for the Autism Project of Rhode Island. In total, the team has raised over $10,000 for the cause.

“I just want to do whatever I can for the cause because I see how special Delaney is,” Foster said.  “These kids need people who help them and are there for them.  The people that work with them are unbelievable, but they need training and need to be funded.”

Foster and his team also participate in the Autism Walk every September in Bristol, R.I., and while the team is usually playing at the time of the spring walk, Foster sends his baseball support staff to the event.  Foster’s personal connection to the disorder has also brought support from the Atlantic-10 Conference, and schools like Dayton, Temple and Fordham that are participating in walks for the cause as well. 

“When I became a coach, I knew giving back was part of my responsibility,” Foster said.  “We have the opportunity to teach these kids it’s not just about them.  So many of them are wrapped up in their statistics or if they’re going to get drafted … it teaches them it’s about the team and there is a bigger picture.  If it wasn’t Autism, it would be something else we would support.”

On the field, Rhode Island is also having a good year despite a tough schedule that has included Florida and South Carolina. URI has defeated Connecticut and the College of Charleston – both ranked in the Top 20 at the time – and is currently tied for second place in the A-10 standings. Rhode Island is 16-5 in its last 21 contests after starting the season with a 10-12 mark.

“The last few weeks we’re starting to put it together,” Foster said.  I told the guys it is how you finish, not how you start.  Our goal right now is to get one of the top two spots in the A-10 Tournament and get a first round bye, and try and win the championship again.  We’re starting to swing the bats and play some good baseball, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

URI hosts UMass on May 6-8 for an important three-game Atlantic-10 series.

Need to Know

• Army shortstop Clint Moore garnered NCWBA National Hitter of the Week honors after batting .333 with four home runs and 16 RBI over six games for the Black Knights.  The native of Greensboro, N.C., started the week with a home run cycle and 11 RBI during a doubleheader against Lafayette, starting the day with a grand slam, and finishing up with three homers in a the second contest.  It is just the third time in Patriot League history the feat has been accomplished as Moore became the first Army player to do it since 2005. 

• South Dakota State junior catcher Zach Briggs picked up his first career Summit League Player of the Week award after batting .615 with seven RBI and five runs scored during a 4-1 week for the Jackrabbits.  Briggs collected a career-best five RBI in a 9-6 win against Minnesota, and hit his first home run in the second game of the series against Oakland.  The Jackrabbits won three of four games against Oakland in Summit League play to maintain a two-game lead in the conference standings.  SDSU has won 24 of its last 27 contests.

• Long Island University tied a single-season school record for wins following a 6-4 win over Hofstra on May 3 as the Blackbirds improved to 27-16 on the season.  LIU also went 27-13 in 1990 when the Blackbirds won the program’s only Northeast Conference championship.  LIU has won five consecutive games, and enters the weekend’s four-game Monmouth series as the top team in the NEC. 

Quick Hits

• Dartmouth’s 13-1 win against Hartford on Tuesday stretched the Big Green’s winning streak to 11 games, the longest active streak in the nation.  The Big Green (29-10) also matched the school record for victories at 29 with the win.  Dartmouth travels to Princeton this weekend to battle for the Ivy League Championship in a best-of-three series with the Tigers beginning on May 7.

• No. 1 Virginia handed VCU a 14-3 defeat in a road goad on Tuesday night at The Diamond in Richmond, Va.  A crowd of 5,421 attended the game, marking the largest crowd for a college baseball game in Virginia state history.

• South Carolina senior right-hander John Taylor leads the nation in ERA (0.82) after making two key relief appearances for the Gamecocks in their sweep of Auburn last weekend.  Taylor tossed one perfect inning of relief in the 2-1 win on April 29 to pick up his fourth victory of the season.  Taylor also paces the Southeastern Conference with 28 appearances and a .158 opponent batting average.  He has struck out 46 batters while walking only 14 in 44 innings pitched.