By: Blake Blondeel
Every young sports fan dreams of lifting that shiny cup-shaped, heavy piece of hardware over their heads.
The Lancers, however, suffered a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Slippery Rock University and were forced to settle for runner-up in the NCAA Division II (DII) Club Baseball Association last season – a heartbreak they’d rather not repeat.
Yes, there was a mourning period, certainly. But how long would the disappointment last? For fourth-year captain Adam Pickel, it was short-lived.
“I can’t wait to get started. Last year we had a tough loss, but I can honestly say, we are ready to get back into the game and rewrite our ending from last season.”
Pickel notes that “Joining this league has been a great experience for me. It’s not every day that you get the opportunity to compete against strong baseball programs in the United States and Canada.”
Lancer players also feel like they are representing Canada every time they hit the pitch against American schools.
“We are referred to as the Canadians. We are the different piece in the game,” Pickel continued. “Being one of the only schools that’s not in the United States means everywhere we go, we seem to be a little bit different. We always carry that ‘Canadian’ on our shoulder and I think the team really likes it. It helps unite us and strengthens our pride.”
Unlike all other Varsity teams, the Lancers Men’s Baseball team plays south of the border in the National Club Baseball Association League (NCBA). Head Coach Frank Jeney had to make the decision after the Canadian loop that they had played in folded following their National Championship win in 2013.
Jeney says “It was a tough decision. We had to weigh our options, and after much thought, the NCBA was a great fit for us.”
With the team heading south of the border, there are unknowns playing against American colleges that can offer funding to athletes. Out of the approximately 274 NCAA DII baseball programs, teams can provide a maximum of 9 full-ride scholarships.
Josh Neposlan, a pitcher for the Lancers team said that “It’s tough knowing that NCAA students are eligible for full-ride athletic scholarships, whereas in Canada we have more limited forms of assistance.”
With DII coaches and recruiters eyeing prospects early into their high-school years it goes to show how forward thinking this league is.
“The league is far more structure than what we were used to in Canada,” says Jeney. “It has strict policies on academics and eligibility, which are very important factors for why I coach this team.”
As the Lancers prepare for the off-season, the team picks back up on March 24, 2018, against Michigan State.
If the Lancers grow from last year’s experience and come back even better, with more learned experience about this league, well, their hopes to be crowned champions may come true.
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