Archive for December, 2009

A Hit Over the Walls of History
December 14, 2009

11/9/09

AU Club Baseball

By Will Noel

The aluminum bat splits the morning air with a loud ping. The white ball flies into the outfield. The white ball drops onto the damp green grass. The outfielder sweeps up the ball and throws towards second to stop the runner. The ball soars over the head of the infielders and smacks into the empty dugout. Outfielder error.

“That’s why we practice,” says sophomore, coach Steve Costanza. It is just another morning for the Eagles, American University’s Club Baseball team.

Baseball has a long history at American University. It was one of the first sports, along with football and basketball, to be played as a varsity sport at AU according to the athletics department.

Baseball began in 1928 as part of a club league, according to the department. In 1939 baseball was re-instated, and put on a 14-game ‘trial’ season. The season was a success and the team became a varsity sport, according to the website.

By 1947 baseball was a fully supported team, and in1954 American University proposed building a baseball stadium, according to the website. The stadium was never built.

The team continued on through the 1960s, winning a Mason-Dixon League Championship on May 20th, 1966. The first, and only division title the team would see for 13 years according to the University.

In 1979 the AU baseball team went 16-2, and won the Capital Collegiate Conference Tournament according to AU.

The AU varsity team coach, Dee Frady, won his 400th games in 1986 after 23 years of coaching.

Costanza started the newest chapter in AU baseball in the spring of 2009. “It was really difficult at first,” said Costanza. “We had meetings the semester before. Getting guys who were really serious took a while”.

The initial team, barely a dozen lowerclassmen, spent that spring practicing. Finding a field was their first priority.

“We were lucky,” said infielder Greg Matlesky. “All we had to do was walk down the street from campus and there it was.” The field that the Eagles call their own is a public recreational field on Massachusetts Avenue.

“The field is not great for anything but practice,” said Matlesky. “The fields we have played other teams on are always top quality”.

With a team and a field the Eagles applied to be part of the National Club Baseball Association in the spring said Costanza.

The NCBA was created in 2000 to provide a large structure for club baseball teams according to their website. The league plays seven inning baseball games.

The NCBA keeps baseball in areas where colleges are letting teams go according to experts. At the University of Vermont, and a handful of other colleges this year, baseball was cut due to budget cuts according to the Burlington Free Press.

The NCBA is divided into two divisions. The first division is for larger schools like Syracuse and the University of Maryland. The second division is for newer, less competitive clubs like the Eagles, according to the league.

The Eagles were officially admitted into the NCBA on July 14th, 2009 according to the NCBA. The league placed the team in the Northern conference of Division II against Georgetown, Howard University, Mount St. Mary’s, and Loyola.

The Eagles entered into fall 2009 with everything needed to play baseball. The NCBA only plays exhibition games in the fall, according to the team’s website.

The Eagles off-season schedule set the team up against Georgetown in a double header, Loyola Maryland, and Mount St. Mary’s.

During the fall exhibition the Eagles lost to Georgetown 0-10 and 2-8. “These games were the first time most of the guys had seen fast pitching in a few years,” said Costanza. “In that second game Greg went two for two though, so we caught on quickly”.

The team spent the next two weeks practicing during early mornings before classes. “It was a pain,” said third baseman Eugene Wheelis. “But with only 17 of us there is not a lot room for mistakes. If we don’t hit well then or pitchers have an enormous task.”

“That first double header was like a marathon,” said pitcher Brian Katz. Only two men on the roster are listed as pitchers, sophomore Katz, and junior Ben Corson.  “We gave them some relief, but that first game was hard,” said Costanza.

After losing to Loyola at Druid Hill Park 3-13, the Eagles had their final exhibition games against Mount St. Mary’s.

The games were played near the border of Maryland and Philadelphia. The stands were empty with the exception of a handful of Mount St. Mary fans. The Eagles walked up to bat wearing their red and white club baseball shirts.

The first game was a game that featured both teams offense. Mount St. Mary’s was able to score seven runs in five innings. The Eagles pulled ahead in the top of the fifth inning on a string of hits from the order.

“I couldn’t hit anything,” said Matlesky who struck out three times. “I just could not pick up their pitches.”

The second game was focused more on pitching and defense. Mount St. Mary’s gained the lead early, but in the sixth inning the eagles rallied for five runs, eventually winning 6-3. It was the first win for American University baseball in two decades.

“Getting that first win was huge,” said Wheelis. “With Brian’s pitching, and that rally we really got [Mount St. Mary’s].” After the game Costanza shook each of his team mates hands. “We got the win, and that’s a great way to end exhibition” said Costanza.

“The time he has spent building this team is amazing,” said Katz. “You really have to appreciate his effort.”

The American University Eagles will begin playing in their first regular season for the NCBA on March 15th, 2010. They will face Georgetown in a three game series.

Each NCBA season is 15 games long, and the regular season ends in late April. There is a playoff series and World Series for teams that win their division. A Division II team has never won the series in the nine years of the league. -30-

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