Baseball is seeking both an Atlantic 10 title and an NCAA playoff berth this season.
The Colonials are preparing to make a run at the A-10 Championship after capturing the most wins in their division last season and finishing with an overall record of 26-18, just narrowly missing the A-10 playoffs. As Head Coach Gregg Ritchie begins his 10th season, he said he believes team success comes down to two factors – attitude and effort.
“Attitude and effort is everything,” Ritchie said. “Because whatever character you think you possess, if you’re not getting something done, and you’re kind of off the beaten path, then you can directly look back to, ‘Is my attitude right, and is my effort right?’”
Ritchie said he hopes to use senior experience to set an example and facilitate team culture for the 15 new players added to the roster this season. He said there is plenty of leadership among the returners, including both leaders by example and more vocal leaders.
Among the roster additions are 13 freshmen and two graduate student transfers in outfielder Michael Ludowig and left-handed pitcher Johnathan Brus. Senior outfielder Cade Fergus said the team prides itself on the inclusion of its first-year members.
“We all try to make sure that we share the things we’ve learned through our experiences and make sure they’re ready to go right away because Coach Ritchie is not scared to play freshmen or a first year right away,” Fergus said. “We could say that from firsthand experience.”
Ritchie said the team is using this experience to get the new players up to speed and help them adjust to potential new roles. He said this will happen over the course of the season and come in part through gameplay.
“Those guys that carry themselves in that way – they accelerate the learning of these guys,” Ritchie said. “And when you can put them in the right platform and do enough work, it brings them along.”
Ritchie said the team culture he has created endures from year to year, and every season is an opportunity to build upon it.
“That’s what we all live this for,” Ritchie said. “It’s not just baseball. it’s the whole life. It’s the essence of everything.”
Senior infielder Noah Levin said Ritchie has prepared the seniors for leadership roles, and the team feels ready to bring new players on board. He said he also played during the off-season in a summer collegiate league.
“I played in a league with some younger guys,” Levin said. “So that helped me develop a leadership role, where I was able to talk with some of the younger guys and really learn how to communicate with them.”
Levin said the team is also working to be more consistent on defense to compliment their strong play on offense. Last year, the Colonials ranked in the top 50 in the nation in on-base percentage and batting average.
Fergus said the team is looking to capture an A-10 Championship and they have the right team to do it. He said between the coaching staff, the new additions and the returning players, there is a lot of confidence that they can “really make a run.”
“We’re all confident, no one’s scared to fail, and each day in practice is a competition,” Fergus said. “So everyone’s just competing, and it really shows, like in the inner-squads we have, everybody just looks like they got a new gear.”
It is not just the roster that has seen new additions. Ritchie brought on three new coaches for the upcoming season: Tyler Kavanaugh as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, Chris O’Neill as assistant coach and Ryan Gaynor as volunteer assistant coach.
Ritchie said he hopes the experience between the coaches will be an asset for the team.
Following a canceled season in 2020 and a season of reduced travel and fans in 2021, the team is excited to return to full play, starting their year in Texas before heading to South Carolina.
“I haven’t gotten a chance to make a run at the A-10 Championship,” Levin said. “So that really is what I’m focused on is now doing whatever we need to do just to get prepared to win.”
Both Fergus and Levin talked about sharing their experiences throughout their time in the program, making sure to include all the new players. Fergus said the seniors want the team to be together from the start.
“We truly believe in ourselves, believe in the coaching staff and everything we’ve been through as a team just bonds everybody closer together,” Fergus said. “And it’s just that I think team chemistry is what’s really going to show up this year.”
This article appeared in the February 14, 2022 issue of the Hatchet.