Bailey, Lancers on Brink of Turning Around Program
History is not on the side of the men’s baseball team.
In fact, the team has never topped 21 wins in a season. That could change in 2011. While far from glamorous with an 11-15 record, the team is moving out of the days in the MCC cellar.
Josh Bailey is now on his fourth year as head coach. When he came to Grace, he mapped out a five-year plan—a plan to make a dismal program a competitive one. It would be no small task. Bailey took over a team that went 3-35, ended the season on a 16-game losing streak, and had only five juniors and seniors combined. There was a culture to change in the program, which meant beyond wins and losses.
In each of the next three seasons, the Lancers would increase their win totals, going from three wins to 10 wins to finally tying a school record by going 21-33 last season. Though a .389 winning percentage still appears shabby, the talent, experience and confidence needed to win is slowly seeping in.
The progression has come slowly, but steadily. This year the baseball team looks to build on last year’s improvement. Junior Brad Heinz has noticed the difference.
“In previous years we have had excuses for not playing well. Now we don’t have any, and the coaches demand and expect more. We just have to put it all together.”
Hot and cold streaks have marked the 2011 season. After starting the season on a six-game losing streak, the Lancers won ten of their next eleven games, including a victory over Bethel College for the first time in over five years. Now the team’s resolve is under fire as a mid-season slump has left the team on a seven game slide and 1-7 in the MCC.
“You see your character when you’re losing,” said Bailey, who says losing has helped humble the team. “Our schedule is set up so we play a lot of bad teams in-a-row and a lot of good teams in-a-row, so we need to learn how to be consistent.”
Before this season is labeled as a turnaround, Bailey is quick to point out that the team has a ways to go. This season is simply part of the plan, not a reversal of circumstances. The past losing seasons have taught the team the value of working hard, which will follow the team through ups and downs this year.
Still, the plan is falling into place. The team has leaned on strong freshmen contributions this year and Bailey anticipates continued improved recruiting in the future with the team only having one senior this year. Though pitching has been a struggle in years past, the Lancers pitching staff now has the second lowest ERA in the MCC and is earning the respect of conference opponents.
A final surge over their last 22 regular season games is well within reach. Freshman pitcher Clifford Buttermore says that success will come after the team regains their confidence. “It just takes one good game to get out of a slump. We feel we can win once we put all the pieces together at once.”
New talent and higher expectations are paving the way for the Lancers’ baseball team. History might not be on the Lancers’ side, but it is history they are learning from.
By Zane Gard
This story was published in the April 8 issue of Grace’s student newspaper, The Sounding Board.