By Greg Dudek
Tough times and losing records do not come often for the Bridgewater State University baseball team. But even when facing adversity, the Bears still find a way to move forward.
Despite a losing regular season, the Bears managed to find a way into the postseason with a doubleheader sweep of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) on Monday.
Even with an appearance in the upcoming Massachusetts State Conference Athletic Conference (MASCAC) Tournament, this season is far from a success for the Bears unless they make some serious noise in the postseason.
Since 1986, the Bears have finished the season under the .500 mark just once, but with poor play this year, the Bears have increased that number to two. Bridgewater State is 13-20 and finished the regular season in sixth place in the MASCAC.
“I have always taught each and every one of them that you win and you lose with humility,” said Bridgewater State head coach Rick Smith. “When [former head coach] Glenn Tufts took over this program, it’s been a championship program all the way through. So this is probably one of the worst years in history. But again, we understood that going in. We’ll be better next year for this year.”
The Bears clinched the sixth and final spot in the MASCAC Tournament when they defeated MCLA twice. In game one, the Bears picked up a 7-1 win to keep their hopes alive.
In game two, sophomore starting pitcher David Holmes willed his team to the postseason with a two-hit, complete game, shutout performance in a 1-0 win.
Now, the Bears will play in the MASCAC Tournament as they travel to face third-seeded Framingham State University on Thursday. The first pitch for the opening round game is scheduled for 3 p.m.
Even though they got to the postseason, it is tough to ignore all the losses the Bears accumulated. In a rebuilding year, Smith knew the losses would come, but has tried to see the silver lining in the losses.
“We are a young team and the experience they gained by playing and getting beat will pay big dividends in the future,” Smith said. “When you can identify where you have lost the game, how you have lost the game, and what you have to improve upon, we are not getting beat, we are giving some games away. And that’s where the problem is and that’s correctable.”
The losses haven’t been for a lack of effort. During their recent five game losing streak before the sweep of MCLA, the Bears lost by an average margin of less than two runs per game.
Being so close, yet not getting the wins a young team needs, was a hit to the team’s morale.
“It’s just a disappointment after every loss we get because we know that we can win,” said junior shortstop Ryan Manning. “Against Fitchburg, the walk-off and then the next game we lost by one. So, little things like that they add up really. We try to stay positive though.”
Even with the losing regular season, the Bears got the chance to see what talent they have when it comes to next year’s team.
Manning, a transfer student-athlete from the University of Massachusetts at Boston, has stepped in nicely in his first season as a Bear, as he leads the team in batting with a .360 average.
“A lot of it has to do with my first two years,” Manning said. “I was able to watch some great players and I tried to learn from that and bring it here.”
More important to the future is the play of junior captain and first baseman Nicholas White.
Smith said White has been the only mainstay in a Bears’ lineup struggling to produce offense as White is batting .353 and is tied for the team lead in runs batted in (RBI) with 12.
“I just come out every day and work hard,” White said. “I go up there and try to have consistent at-bats and just keep plugging away. Being the leader of the team, I have been trying to do everything I can to help this team win games.”
While the Bears made history in a way which they probably would not have preferred this season, the bumps they took will help them next year as everyone returns besides for three players.
“They’ve learned from their mistakes,” Smith said. “Once they can put it all together, get that year of experience under their belt, they should be okay. But that’s the growing process.”
Greg Dudek is The Comment’s Editor-In-Chief. Follow him on Twitter at gdudek10 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.