| Baseball Season Ends With High Hopes
The Berea College baseball team had its ups and downs this season, but finished on a high note, coming in third place in the KIAC Conference tournament as the host team May 3 - 5. This meant they were just one win away from qualifying for the regional playoffs.
Berea College 2007 baseball team
The Mountaineers were the last seeded team and, with the slump in the last half of their season, expectations were low, especially after they were soundly defeated in the first round. The young men may have been down, but they weren’t out and went on to win their next two tournament games. The victories energized them and especially delighted head coach Ryan Hess. “You work so hard and spend months preparing, " he explains. "When they experience a little bit of success they just have a look and excitement about them that’s infectious. It’s unreal.”
A former catcher for the team, graduating from BC in 1998, Hess brings an advantageous understanding of his players and the pressures they are under as Berea College athletes. He feels the baseball program is especially time consuming as the athletes are required to do field maintenance in addition to their various labor positions. “I don’t think people really understand what it takes to keep a field in good playing condition.”
Graduating senior and co-captain Chad Warner, who stuck with the program even through several losing seasons during his college career, says the strength of this year’s team was that the players had “a lot of heart. There was nothing any of the guys wouldn’t do to try and get a win.”
Senior David Moore appreciated the friendships he developed while being on the team. “The guys we play and played with helped me grow as a person and I will remember them forever,” he says. Moore was pleased to see the team stay close even through the rough portion of their season. “No one liked what was going on, but we stuck it out. We peaked when we needed to. … We were versatile as a team, but the strength lay within the bonds we made as teammates, friends and brothers.”
Ryan Wilson, co-captain and senior, says playing for Berea College allowed him to play in every game since his freshman year, which helped him improve his skills. In fact, he has made the Berea record books by hitting the most triples (five) in a season. Even though Wilson's playing career at Berea has ended, he says the two tournament wins gave the returning team confidence and optimism about next year’s season.
Hess is more than optimistic about the future of his team – he’s ecstatic. He has at least 20 talented incoming freshmen he has recruited who will be vying for spots on the team in the fall. “It’s by far the strongest recruiting class we’ve had in recent history. A lot of the kids came to the tournament and this helped solidify in their minds that this is where they want to be. … This really is the beginning of what we really do hope is going to be a nice run, a special time.”
The coach, who was a BC assistant coach for one season and co-head coach for four years before taking the lone leadership position last year, loves his job. “I don’t know that I could dedicate as much of my life and my time somewhere else. I’ve been other places and seen the way other teams are structured. Berea’s a special place. At Berea you have a special kind of kid and it’s those kids I want to be around."