Up from the ashes
King leads Franklin Pierce from depths to DII title tourney
CARY, N.C. -– There once was a time at Franklin Pierce, and it really wasn’t all that long ago, that an appearance in the Division II championship tournament was the stuff of pure fantasy.
In 1998, the year before head coach Jayson King arrived on campus, the Ravens were 8-21. Worse still, the program had limped to a woeful mark of 40-103-2 in the five years BK -- Before King. Never had the school won more than 11 games in a single season, never even had so much as a whiff of playing .500 ball.
|RAVENS WIN EAST REGION|
Franklin Pierce earned its place in the Division II Baseball Championship by defeating Wilmington (Del.) to win the East Region championship on May 19.
Complete story, click here.
King came on board in 1999 and went 17-22 that first year. The school has not had a losing season since, and following a steady climb out of mediocrity, the Ravens have advanced to the DII national championship tournament for the sixth time since King took the helm.
There was no secret formula, no magic that was performed to make the turnaround happen.
“Basically, I was just trying to bring in the best players, of course, that we could,” King said. “Then, we really tried to focus on making them better. I think those two things were kind of how it all got started.
“Then, from there, we just instilled some values of the program and how we wanted our guys to play the game. It just took off from there. Once we got our first recruiting class, when those guys were juniors and seniors, we started to get pretty good. That was how we built the foundation.”
Imagine being in King’s shoes that first year or two and trying to coax a young high-school phenom into signing with Franklin Pierce.
The team’s record is what?!?
The Ravens didn’t have the kind of success back then that sells itself, but what they did have was King’s foresight into what was about to happen with the school’s baseball program. He had a plan, and was determined to put it into action. Slowly but surely, it started coming true.
One thing was for sure back then. King could all but assure a kid of playing time, because the players they would be replacing were … well … you know … not that great to begin with.
“That first year was tough, because you were basically just selling recruits on what your vision was and what your plan was,” King said. “But there was nothing really to back it up. There was not past history of success. Our baseball facilities were terrible.”
Terrible facilities are no longer the case at Franklin Pierce, located in Rindge, N.H. The school opened its showcase Dr. Arthur and Martha Pappas Field in 2005, King’s sixth year with the Ravens.
When other schools in the area have to wait for snow to melt, Pappas Field’s EdelGrass artificial surface can be plowed and players can practice and play. Lights were added in 2007 and still more improvements were made during a 2009 renovation.
“Getting that built was big, because that allowed us to get those guys that you had to go toe-to-toe with others schools for,” King said. “It was just one more feather in our cap. To be able to match up to those guys was important.
“Just to be able to play games on a regular basis was important. The other field we had, we were playing on the road and doing anything we could just to get games in. It was real difficult, but once we got that, it really changed the game for us.”
Win or lose this year here in Cary, what King has been able to accomplish at Franklin Pierce is nothing short of stunning. Ten or 11 wins a year? Forget that. The Ravens topped 40 wins in five of the seven seasons prior to 2013, and could conceivably do so again this year depending on how far they go this week.
“It means a lot,” King said. “This is going to be the sixth trip [to the DII Championship] I’ve made with this program. Every time you go, it’s just another great opportunity to win a national championship. We’re looking forward to it.
“We’re looking, obviously, to obtain the ultimate goal and win a national championship. That’s what we’ve been working toward. We want to go out there, play good baseball and enjoy the experience.”