After an immensely successful 2014 season that included a 39-16 record and trips to both the PSAC and Atlantic Regional title games, few were expecting the Marauders to drop two of their first three games to kick off 2015.
However, if you’re Millersville baseball coach Jon Shehan, you don’t have expectations; you have goals.
“Anything can happen during the course of a fifty game season,” said Shehan. “We did set some common goals—win the East, win the PSAC, win the regional and win the World Series. I would not call them expectations—they keep us motivated and focused every day.”
The Marauders entered the 2015 season short a few players that were key to their championship runs in 2014, namely career .311 hitter first baseman Dan Johnson, Division II MVP runner-up closer Adam Zipko and MU record holders OF Zach Stone (hits) and starter Tad Barton (wins).
The four seniors graduated, leaving big shoes to fill for Shehan, his new recruits and a few returning vets with clean bills of health.
“The sign of a healthy organization—in business or athletics—is one in which the culture of success remains constant when good people leave,” said Shehan “We did not come in this year looking for individuals to be like Stone, Johnson, Barton and Zipko; that would be impossible. Our goal was to recruit good players and bring them into the same culture that last year’s class helped to create. I think we are on the right track.”
Outfielder Jeremy Musser has officially made his long-awaited return from the torn ACL that kept him out of action last season. Through the team’s first three games Musser is hitting .333 and has drawn four walks, good for a .538 OBP. The redshirt sophomore is looking to follow up on a freshman campaign in 2013 that resulted in a .345 average, 32 RBIs and 48 runs scored.
Shehan also believes that the talented crop of recruits signed this year should fit in nicely with the returning Marauders, including the Splendid Splinter himself, second basemen Ted Williams.
Williams, who is of no relation to the Hall of Fame Red Sox left fielder, is vying for the starting job at second base, where he excelled both offensively and defensively for Meadville High School.
Despite entering the season pegged as the No. 1 team in the PSAC East, the team has avoided letting anything—from their ranking to last season’s successes—go to their heads.
“We didn’t mention it as a team once this week,” said Shehan in the days leading up to the season opener. “We appreciate the respect that we have earned over the past few years in the league, but we haven’t done anything this year to earn it. Being ranked No. 1 in the [PSAC] East, the region or the nation is worthless. What matters is how we prepare and how we execute in big games.”
For the Marauders, there was no shortage of execution during the opener against Winston Salem State. Two-time PSAC East Pitcher of the Year Chris Murphy fanned six over seven shutout frames, earning the 22nd win of his career in the 8 to 3 victory over the Rams.
After the opening day win, pitching woes plagued the Marauders—Jim McDade was shelled for seven earned in just four innings, while a solid start by Brandon Miller in game three went to waste when the bullpen yielded six runs in three innings of work.
The team will look to get back on track when the open a three-game set against Pitt-Johnstown on Saturday, Feb. 14.
Early season struggles aside, the Marauders are no strangers to success—since 2011 they have posted a 70-29-1 under Shehan, who says the team has an unparalleled drive for winning.
“We have a fear of failure,” said Shehan. “Our kids want to win so bad that they are afraid to lose.”
The goal driven-coach of the powerhouse program now looks to reshape his team’s mentality following last year’s postseason loss, looking only towards the immediate future.
“When we get a chance to play for a championship again, our mentality is going to be different,” said Shehan. “For now, we have to focus on the next pitch.”