When Emerson’s men’s baseball team met for practice just more than two weeks before its first game of the season, the Bobbi Brown and Steven Plofker Gym was noticeably crowded. This year, the Lions’ roster lists 25 players, the most in the program’s history.
“The most we’ve had before is 22, and then 20,” said head coach David Hanley, who is entering his fifth year leading the squad.
Though the extra men have created some spatial issues for indoor practices, Hanley said the additions to the team have added depth to the Lions’ pitching staff.
“We’ve got six new players and three or four new starters,” Hanley said. “Our pitching staff is now 10 or 11 deep. The most it was before was six.”
According to sophomore center fielder James Sullivan, the additional players will prevent the Lions fading out toward the end of the season.
“You need a lot of pitchers when you play 40 games,” Sullivan said. “The more arms we have, the better it is for us.”
The Lions have struggled in the past with keeping momentum through the end of the season. They finished their 2010-2011 campaign with a record of 12-24, and though they made the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) tournament for the fifth year in a row, they were blown out 17-0 in the first round by cross-Common rivals, Suffolk University.
Hanley said that there is a sense of urgency with so many players entering their last season.
“Emerson never had a .500 baseball team,” Hanley said. “This is the year we’re going to do it. We have to do it.” After this season, the Lions will graduate 11 players.
Shortstop Ryan Garber and catcher Geoff Lopes, two of the team’s senior captains, also have high hopes for the season. The extra pitchers, they believe, will be key in carrying Emerson into the season.
“We haven’t always been physically capable of bringing home that 40-game season,” Garber said. “Now, with the pitching, we don’t have that hole in the lineup.”
As this is his last year with the team, Garber also added that it will be important for the seniors to step up as leaders.
“I’m just trying to make the most of it,” he said. “There are 11 seniors this year, so it’s up to us to get the team rallied.”
The Lions take to the field for their first game of the season against Hiram College of Hiram, Ohio on Sunday in Ft. Myers, Fla. The game is the first in a series of 10 down south. And though this comes during Emerson’s spring break, the Lions are all business.
“I’ve been emphasizing to [the team] that we’re not going to Florida for spring break,” Hanley said. “We’re not even going to play baseball games. We’re going to win baseball games.”