Head baseball coach Chris Francis earned his 100th win with the Virginia Wesleyan program in a 7-2 road win against Ferrum College on March 30. This season marks his fifth year as the head coach of the Marlin team.
This is not the first time Francis has found himself on the coaching staff at Virginia Wesleyan as he was a pitching coach for the team from 2003-07. In 2003, the Virginia Wesleyan pitchers ranked second in the nation with an ERA of 2.19.
Before returning to Virginia Wesleyan as head coach, Francis was head coach at College of St. Rose and Mansfield University, and an assistant coach at the University of Rochester and Ithaca College.
In Francis’s first season as head coach at Virginia Wesleyan, he made major improvements.
“When we got here five years ago we were just trying to get back to competitive baseball in a program and institution we’re proud of representing,” Francis said. “But that first group really changed the culture quickly. We just had a lot of really good people who were very self-motivated and were excited about change.”
In the 2015 season the team had a record of 19-14-1 and 14-6 in the conference. Those 14 conference wins were the team’s best conference record since 2004. Then in 2017, the team went 20-21. This was the first season the team won at least 20 games since the 2010 team.
“We got really lucky with that first recruiting class that brought in Pilarski, and Lowe and Crusemire, which makes up our starting rotation this year, and also just a lot of really good players that care about this place and care about this program,” Francis said.
2018 was a highly successful year for the Marlins as they went 31-16 overall and then 15-5 in conference play. The team also received an NCAA berth and won three games in the NCAA tournament. Six players earned a spot on the All-ODAC team, three on the All-Region team, and then Jake Pilarski was named to the All-American team.
Senior Daniel Petro expressed why he and his teammates bought into to Francis’s system.
“The best quality that coach has that separates him from other coaches is his ability to see a player’s potential and not only care about winning, but also us growing as players,” Petro said.
In the game that gave Francis his 100th win, Petro hit a homerun on a day where he went 3-4 at the plate. Also, Pilarski and sophomore Reese Reid both hit homeruns in addition to Petro’s. Junior Andrew Lowe picked up the win at the mound.
“As a senior I would never want to play for another coach. Coach Francis pushes us to be the best men that we can be on and off the field,” Petro said.
The team currently holds an 11-6 conference record and only have five more conference games left on the season before the conference tournament.
“We just need to continue to play nine full innings, you know not taking bats off, and be what they’ve been the last eight to ten days which is a ball club that really believes in themselves and each other and just really grinds it out,” Francis said.