Baseball quadruples wins from last season

First-year Jack McDowell pitches at a conference home game against Washington and Lee University on April 27.

Josh Pagett|Marlin Chronicle

For the first time since 2019, Baseball has clinched a spot in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) tournament. They are seeded No. 7 with a conference record of 11-11 and an overall record of 20-17. This season for the Marlins was a dramatic turnaround from last season in which they totaled 5 wins and 30 losses. 

Head Coach Chris Francis attributed the team’s improvement to its veteran leadership. “They brought in the young players, new players and they set a standard. And they’ve kept that up every day since the fall practices began, so I can’t thank or appreciate [enough] the work that they’ve done to really bring this thing along,” Francis said. 

As a veteran leader, senior Samuel Kasprow defined his responsibility in such a role. “I’m always trying to help the younger guys out. If I feel like I know something that can help them in practice, I’ll start being a player-coach in a sense,” Kasprow said.

The young talent on this team has also played a part in their success, especially on the mound. 

“The biggest thing on the defensive side is we added 11 rookie pitchers, a couple of transfer sophomores, transfer freshmen and a bunch of freshmen who have contributed and really reshaped our pitching staff and our rotation. That’s what we’ve been missing since COVID,” Francis said. 

This influx of talent has also alleviated the burdens of injuries the team experienced with key players, providing the team with much needed depth, according to Kasprow. 

“I think part of the reason why we don’t necessarily think about [the loss of starting players] is because the guys who have stepped up have done such a great job of filling up those spots,” he said.

Although Baseball has had one of its best seasons since the COVID-19 pandemic, the team has had some inconsistency in performance this season. Francis acknowledged the shortcomings of the team that require addressing before competing in the ODAC tournament against top talent. 

“I think defensively we’ve got to clean some things up. We play well in spurts. We lost our starting shortstop Eddy Hardwood to injury and lost obviously Clay Clark, who was our corner outfielder, Marcel was another outfielder. So we’ve been sort of mixing and matching the last three or four weeks, and that seems to be sort of keeping us competitive. But I think that we just need to be more consistent defensively,” Francis said. 

Nevertheless, the team remains confident leading up to ODACs, carried by the strength of their tight knit team culture, according to Kasprow. 

 “The one thing that’s been the most notable difference this year is the community and the brotherhood. I know that’s super cliche to say, but everyone is super connected,” Kasprow said.

Assistant Coach and Recruiting Coordinator Jeff Butler also commented on the team’s confidence despite postseason inexperience. 

“I think our guys’ mindset is pretty clear, just being able to go out and compete every single day. They’re ready to take on whatever challenge, and they’ve proven that in these tough games,” Butler said. “They’re fighters, and they love it and they care, and that’s what’s going to take you deep, not just in the game of baseball but in life.”

Although the Marlins fell early in the tournament to No. 2 Roanoke, they show great promise, according to Francis.

“This past year’s recruiting class is one of the best ones we’ve had since I’ve been here. There are players that have been really developing and pushing that just haven’t had a chance to play yet,” he said. “But we’ve got a really good influx of talent that should be ready to contribute next year.”

Butler also showed excitement for the team’s young talent.

“From the get-go, just unselfishness. They’re just ready to go with what we’re ready to do, and they are ready to compete at a high level at any given moment. And their development is going to be key for us moving forward,” he said.

The next step for the Marlins in perpetuating this success for future seasons is cleaning up the defensive end, continuing to build upon their depth and preserving the improvements in team culture. 

By: Sydnee Washington