When the dust settled after a flurry of action over the final two innings on April 10, EMU’s baseball men had taken down Southern Virginia 9-5 and logged a very important win.
The Royals improved to 16-17 with that road decision, giving them the most wins in a season since 2002. The team finished the season nine days later at 20-19 overall.
For perspective, the 2002 team, which ended the season 29-13, featured star senior Erik Kratz, a current player in the Toronto Blue Jays system behind the plate. In 2013, Kratz was a starting catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies. While at EMU, Kratz was named Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) Player of the Year twice and finished his EMU career with the NCAA record 75 doubles.
The Royals have seen their win total rise over the past two years under the guidance of head coach Ben Spotts. EMU won 15 games in 2013 after totaling 11 wins the previous three seasons (2010-12). The 20 wins earned this year are the most earned since the 2002 team collected 29 wins en route to a fourth-place finish in the ODAC.
Stand-out players during the April 10, 2014 game that tipped the season’s win-loss balance over .500:
- Ryan McAlister (Bridgewater, Va./Turner Ashby) wrapped up the scoring with a two-run single
- Jonathan Estrada (Miami, Fla./Doral Academy) batted 4-5
- Adam Posey (Poquoson, Va./Poquoson) scored twice
- Ryan Hedrick (Bridgewater, Va./Turner Ashby) had two doubles and two runs
- David Meehan (Virginia Beach, Va./Salem) smacked two doubles
- Conner Smith (Chesapeake, Va./Oscar Smith) scored twice
- Starting pitcher Jacob Brown (Gloucester, Va./Gloucester) threw 6.0+ scoreless innings to improve to 2-3
- Ryan Henschel (New Market, Va./Stonewall Jackson) tossed scoreless ball for two innings
These and other players kept the momentum going the last few games of the season, snapping a 15-game losing streak to the Bridgewater College Eagles and then rallying from a 10-6 loss to Roanoke College to defeat them later that day 3-1.
Senior Ryan McAlister was recognized as the Royals “Athlete of the Week” on April 21.
Learning to lead through hardship
McAlister was a consistent starter for the baseball team all four of his years at EMU. He was a key player this spring in lifting the team above .500 to a winning record. McAlister played the best game of his career on Senior Saturday, April 12, when he batted 5-for-6 with three runs and three RBIs in an exciting 18-8 victory over Virginia Wesleyan College. (See the schedule and results for the 2014 baseball season.)
“[Coach Spotts] always tells us that he’s a winner and we can be winners, too,” said Ryan. “It was easy to get behind the coach and buy into the winning plan he brought to us, because he has a lot of knowledge, experience and success in the game.”
Ryan admits that his first two years on the EMU baseball team were tough – the team struggled with a losing record – but he says he would not trade that experience for anything. Being a starter for his team for four years helped him play a more prominent role on his team and become a vocal leader, he says.
“As a freshman, I led by example. I did things the right way. I played the game hard,” Ryan explained. “And as I started to gain more experience and the seniors started to graduate, I became more vocal.”
With plans to finish classes in December, the sports and recreational leadership major says he really appreciates the small class sizes that EMU offers and the relationships he has built with his professors.