By: John Bauer
Talk to any member of McMaster’s baseball team about the past season and you will probably hear the same two words uttered: “turnover season.” The campaign started off better than anyone on the team could have imagined with an 18-2 demolition of the York Lions. The Lions would win the next game in extra innings in a sort of preview for what lay ahead for the Marauders. The team lost close game after close game, finishing a lowly 1-17.
“Baseball’s a funny game,” said infielder Eric Telford. “Sometimes the bounces don’t go your way. That first game everything was going right for us and then the second game we lost in extra innings and since then it’s been a tough road. It’s tough to keep your morale up. We’ve had a couple games where the bounces just haven’t been going our way.”
Normally a 1-17 season would be reason to take a good, hard look at a sports program. But a glance at the Marauders’ roster shows that a whopping 15 of the team’s 24 players are in their first or second year of eligibility.
Telford agreed. “We’re a young team. Lots of guys don’t have much experience in the OUA. I think it’s just learning every game and trying to get better.”
The biggest steps toward future success may have actually been made this past off-season. McMaster aligned its baseball program with that of the Hamilton Cardinals.
“We’ve been using the clubhouse and the change rooms and the speakers in the stadium,” said outfielder Mike Campagnolo. “It definitely does feel a lot more like a baseball team this year. We have noticed the difference and it’s a lot better for the program.”
Catcher Brandon da Silva notices another big difference this year. “There’s definitely more people [in the crowd]. Not just parents,” he said.
The agreement also means that McMaster’s players can play summer ball for the Cardinals, instead of having to return to their hometowns to play. Several of the players have already taken advantage of this opportunity. But the most significant change might have been the installation of former NCAA player, Intercounty all-star, and Ancaster native Adam Strongman as the new head coach.
“I like the style of coaching that he brings to the table,” said da Silva. “He brings a lot of knowledge and experience. Being a player himself, it’s been a good change for the team.”
Head coach Strongman likes the squad he has inherited.
“The team that I have assembled this year and that we have had in the past, have had the same amount of talent as all the other schools in our league … For me, the overall record doesn’t really show the development of the team. We did many things right this year and the team continually did everything that I asked of them,” said Strongman.
“We are a very young team who learned what the OUA is all about and the players will be able to prepare with more intensity knowing what will be expected next year.”
All and all, the team has taken its down year in stride. They feel that this year was a necessary step in their ascension back into the realm of OUA contenders. With the season done, they will start their off-season training regimen, and return to their club teams or play for the Cardinals over the summer. But they are excited for next season to start, to prove that this year was not indicative of what McMaster baseball is.
“It starts with recruits, it starts with bringing the right people in,” said Telford. “If we start to do that, we brought the right coaching staff in. We have people here that can coach us. Now it’s about getting the players and coming together as a team. It’s about building young guys that are going to be here for years to come and guys that are going to compete in the OUA. That’s what it’s all about.”