The Kalamazoo College Baseball team was defeated in the program’s first ever MIAA playoff appearance, falling to Adrian College 17-1 last Wednesday and then 10-3 in the elimination game against Hope on Thursday.
First year Nate Donovan scored the only run in the first game against the Bulldogs as his fellow classmate Mario Ferrini drove him in. Sophomore pitcher Dylan Pierce, who held Adrian to one run over six innings in his last outing against them, struggled early on and allowed the Bulldogs to jump out to an early 7-0 lead.
In the second game, Marc Zughaib led the charge in his final appearance in orange and black, going 2-4 on the day. Juniors Carter Chandler and Joey Aliota both knocked in an RBI a piece in the loss. The Hornets were outmatched in both contests despite beating Hope three out of four games in the regular season and playing a number of close games against Adrian.
“I think we let the moment get a little too big for us,” said junior pitcher Adam McDowell. “We’ve proven we can hang with these teams but we just psyched ourselves out a little bit. Hopefully when we get back there next year we’ll be able to compete a little bit more.”
The program has seen a drastic turnaround since the appointment of a full time head coach in Mike Ott, who was hired for the 2013 season. The Hornets finished 15-13 in conference play, which is the first winning season since 1990. They also made the postseason for the first time in school history despite fielding a roster filled with youth. The change to a winning culture is trending among many of Kalamazoo College’s athletic teams, but nowhere has the shift been as dramatic as this baseball season.
“It was a big step forward for the program,” said junior first baseman Carter Chandler. “This means a lot to the school and the athletic department as they’re trying to change the culture around here. I definitely feel like we’ve helped with that.”
The Hornets will enter next season with everybody returning except their captain and starting second baseman Marc Zughaib. Zughaib received All-MIAA second team honors for the second time in his career this season and was pivotal to the team’s success.
Even with the loss of a great player and leader, the outlook is still very optimistic for the 2015 season. Outfielder Scott Devine returns for his senior season after garnishing all conference honors as will freshman Mitch VanKoevering. Fellow freshman Ian Kobernick will play a large role for the Hornets next year after batting .377 in his first season, which was good for first on the team. Adam McDowell will head the pitching staff once again for his senior season.
“This season we showed not just everybody else, but ourselves too, that we can compete in this league,” said McDowell. “With the most players returning out of any team in the conference, I think the expectation is to not only make the conference tournament but to win it as well.”