Turnaround for the ages
Gallaudet won its most games since 1899 -- 18 -- in 2011
Gallaudet isn’t making any plans for the NCAA tournament this month. The dream ended two weeks ago for the Bison in the North Eastern Athletic Conference West Division tournament.
But when a team knows the feeling of slamming into rock bottom -- Gallaudet was 4-34 last season -- rising up to win 18 games a year later is quite an accomplishment, especially when you consider the Bison set a school record for the most wins in a season since 1899 when the Bison went 16-4.
Junior pitcher/first baseman Ryan Hastings took a lot of pride in being part of a team that broke a record that survived the turn of two centuries, even if it did mean fighting through a 10-game losing streak at one point this season. In the end, the Bison laid a foundation for success in the future.
|Gallaudet University, the world's only university in which all programs and services are specifically designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students, was founded in 1864 by an Act of Congress, and its charter was signed by President Abraham Lincoln.|
“It’s nice to be a part of history,” Hastings said. “We worked really hard for this goal and being able to accomplish it has a good feeling to it. We were really motivated to prove to everyone that last year’s season was just a fluke and that this year we really meant business.”
That business-like mentality was on display when the Bison knocked off Penn State-Abington 3-1 in its opening game of the conference tournament.
Gallaudet ended up losing its next two games of the double-elimination tourney, falling 8-2 to Penn State-Berks and 5-4 to Abington, but for a team that went just 1-17 in conference play a year ago, the effort in the tournament was a step in the right direction.
The Bison was 8-6 in league play this year and clinched a spot in the NEAC tourney on the last day of the season.
“It is a tribute to our hard work, dedication and our improved overall game," said Gallaudet head coach Curtis Pride, who played for six major league teams and batted .250 in 421 games. “I knew going into the season that we had the talent to turn things around. However, with five freshmen starting, I also knew that we were going to make a lot of mistakes. But it was part of our growing process, and that growth was evident in the way we ended our season. I am really looking forward to next year.”
It seems that the road ahead for the Bison will be decidedly more smooth in 2012, a stark contrast to the way things were last season when Gallaudet lost its first 20 games and fell into a hole of despair.
“It was really tough on the team,” Hastings said. “We still had to be focused and had to work hard and eventually things would fall into place. There were games where we had a chance to win but we let little mental mistakes beat us. We beat ourselves.”
Gallaudet won seven of its first 11 games this season, but just when it seemed as if the Bison was going to build a wave of momentum, it hit a wall. The next 10 games would all end in defeat, starting with a 10-3 loss to Husson during a trip to Florida and ending with a 16-0 loss to Salisbury.
The skid could have crushed the will of the Bison. It could have draped the team with a blanket of frustration and left Gallaudet with no hope of finishing the year on a positive note.
NEAC West Division Player of the Year William Bissell wasn't going to let it happen. The star freshman had faith that the Bison would battle through and get back on track.
He was right.
“I wasn’t concerned at all,” Bissell said. “I knew we would get together and finally get out of the mess. I believe that when it came to defense, our defense went to a higher level of play and we played amazing defense the rest of the way. All we need to do now is put it all together for an entire season.”
That shouldn’t be a problem. Bissell is one of several key players who will be back next season for the Bison. Bissell hit .438 this past season, tallying 56 hits and driving in 41 runs. He hit 15 doubles, four triples and and belted four home runs.
Junior William Chapman will be back as well. He owned a .394 batting average, hit 14 doubles and tallied 34 RBI. The lone senior the Bison is losing is Zane Nochese, who hit .339 and finished the year with 39 hits and 32 runs. He also went 6-1 as a pitcher and had a 3.52 ERA.
Hastings finished just 3-9 on the mound but should benefit from another year of experience.
“It is important that we keep our success going into next season because not winning the tournament left us hungry for another shot at the conference championship next year,” Hastings said. “We are looking forward to that opportunity.”
Pride echoes those thoughts. He believes an upgrade in talent helped this team turn the corner and expects even more from the Bison next year as he will be bringing in a talented recruiting class that should make an immediate impact.
“Our team was disappointed in how the season ended because in our hearts, we really believed that we were the best team in the conference,” Pride said. “We know we have a chance to be one of the best teams next year if we cut down on the number of physical and mental mistakes. The team has gained a lot of valuable experience and our expectations are higher now. We didn’t exceed expectations, but we had a good year.”