The 2016 Tigerâ€™s baseball season was certainly one for the books. Not only did the Tigers have a record breaking number of wins, 44, but they topped it off by solidifying their place as the best program in the nation with a win at the Division III Championship.
No victory comes easy, and as any successful program knows, it requires hard work and discipline at an individual and team level. For baseball, this means players have to be willing to put in work on their own during the off-season to return in shape for the upcoming season, and then be ready to put in even more work once the season arrives. Finding the motivation to push through months of training can be challenging, but the Tigers found that past losses could be used to stay focused on potential future success.
â€œWe worked hard in the offseason to make sure we were prepared, so whenever days got long we just reminded ourselves of the work that we put in up to that point,â€ said Chris Tate, Trinity senior and left-handed pitcher. â€œWe also came in third last year, which wasnâ€™t how we wanted to finish that year so that kept us motivated as well.â€
Senior weekend was another motivating moment for the baseball team, when they lost to TLU 15-5 in the Conference Series.
â€œWe pretty much got smoked by TLU. At home, a big conference series, they came in and beat us pretty good. And after that the players just kinda said we arenâ€™t losing again. And we didnâ€™t. From April 9th through the National Championships we didnâ€™t lose a game, and we won games in all different fashions. Blowouts, close games, come-from-behind games,â€ said assistant J.C. Bunch.
The winning streak was finely timed, and after sweeping both the SCAC championship and the West Regionals Championship, they made their second consecutive appearance at the Division III World Series. Â The team beat the previous champion, Cortland, before playing Keystone College in a best of three series. The first game was easily won. â€œThere wasnâ€™t much doubt we had won the first game,â€ said Head Coach Tim Scannell. â€œThe second game, however, was much more of a nail biter, and we really had to rally together to win that one.â€
Going into the second game, the team was faced with over four hours of delay due to poor weather. Once it finally started, it was far more contested than the previous, with Keystone fighting to even the series. However, there were a few key moments that helped the Tigers clinch the victory, ike Andrew Watersâ€™ two RBIs. Scannell referred to the now graduated Waters as one of the most important players of the series. At the end of the game, the Tigers walked away with a well-earned 10-7 victory, and Trinityâ€™s first ever baseball national championship trophy.
â€œOur whole goal was to win a national championship, but when youâ€™re in the first week of the season itâ€™s hard to think about. We make playoffs and win our conference and then everyone starts realizing that the championship is just a couple games away. When we actually won, the feeling was unbelievable. Being able to accomplish that feat with the group of guys was really special, so it took a moment to soak in,â€ Tate said.
The players were not the only ones receiving recognition. After the victory, Coach Scannell was awarded Division III Coach of the Year. Of course, like any great coach, he distributes all the praise to the players.
â€œThatâ€™s the type of player we have here at Trinity. Baseball is extremely important to these guys, and we had three professional players from last season with Jeremy Wolfe now up there playing with the New York Mets,â€ Scannell said. â€œThey come to Trinity to play baseball, and at any given moment they were probably more focused than the coaches were, and that really paid off.â€