Consistency goes a long way in sports. In terms of winning, it can prove that a team’s success is not so much a flash in the pan, rather a legitimate indication of collective skill in multiple facets. When it comes to losing, consistency can prove that a team is simply unable to keep up with the competition, not so much victims of an inevitable cold streak.
Springfield College’s baseball team falls somewhere right in the middle of those two ends of the consistency spectrum.
The past four seasons have been topsy-turvy to say the least, as the Pride found themselves as the second seed in the NEWMAC (New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference) in 2012 (20-15), to missing the tournament in 2013 (14-18), back to the second seed in the NEWMAC tournament in 2014 (21-16) to missing it in 2015 (10-26).
And coming off an underwhelming 2015 campaign, Springfield’s roster has a new, younger, look to it. Of the 36 men on the roster, 13 are freshman. And with the condensed roster of 30 (9 of which are freshman) going on the team’s annual trip to Florida, 16 have yet to see a varsity college pitch.
“We’re really young. It’s tough not having that much returning experience but I think with the core of upper classmen we have, it is going to be a good balance,” said senior infielder Billy Peterson.
The youthful message was echoed with optimism from head coach Mark Simeone, who, even in his 19th season at them helm, admits that it will present an exciting and unique challenge.
“We have the largest percentage-wise of turnover since I’ve been the head coach,” he said. “With that inexperience there’s certainly some ability and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all unfolds.”
While the youthfulness is exciting and can lead to a heap of surprises, there are some natural growing pains that go along with the development process. Simeone cited that the lack of experience can lead to questionable decision making and tentativeness and a lack of confidence.
He does, however, have tremendous faith in the group of veterans he does have to help through those inevitable struggles.
Added Peterson, “With the younger guys, especially the freshman or kids who weren’t on varsity last year, they are coming in with a fresh perspective. I think it is important to have that, and it will be good for the program down the road.”
Another major change this season has been completely out of the Pride’s hands, but nevertheless it’s been a beneficial one.
The unseasonably warm and snow-lacking winter has been a welcomed change for the Pride in their preparation for the season. When the team takes the field for their first game of the season on Mar. 13 against FDU-Florham in Auburndale, Fla., they will have had much more time outdoors than in years past.
“It’s had a huge impact, we’re very fortunate to be able to get outside, it helps a lot with defensive work as well as reading balls off the bat” said senior pitcher Dan Green. “Everybody is on the same page a lot more than when you’re inside a gym.”
It is little surprise that the goal expressed from each player is the same: to win the NEWMAC title.
Since the Springfield became part of the NEWMAC in the fall of 1998, they’ve has never won the conference tournament, nor been the regular season championship.
In fairness, in the 17 years of baseball in the conference, only four teams — Babson, Wheaton, WPI (who tied for regular season champion in 2009) and MIT (who won the conference championship in 2014 and 2015 and tied for regular season champion in 2015) — have been either the regular season champion or tournament champion.
MIT will stand a bit taller than usual in the way of Springfield and the rest of the conference, as they are widely regarded as the top team in the conference on paper entering this season.
“It’s a very good conference relative to our sport,” Simeone said. “Wheaton has been strong perennially and MIT has been voted as the preseason favorite. Our conference has gotten stronger over the years and I anticipate it being strong again and we’ll have to play good baseball to contend for a playoff spot.”
Very few things are certain entering this season. And that goes for the entire conference, not just Springfield. But the Pride does find themselves in a precarious position with the young squad they have. But suffice it to say that by no means is than an indication that there are not components that can ultimately result in a successful 2016 campaign.
It’s a tall task, but Springfield appears to be ready to rise to the challenge. And if history is any indication, this year could certainly shape up to be a good one.