Heading into the season, Webster University’s men’s baseball team prepared for a youth movement of sorts.
Losing a pair of now professional players such as Gateway Grizzlies pitcher Kyle Uhrich and Josh Fleming, a fifth-round selection during the 2017 MLB Draft, could have sapped the team of valuable experience heading into the 2017-18 season. Instead, players on the team are looking the situation with a renewed sense of motivation that they could potentially follow the same path.
A season ago, the Gorloks had six players earn All-Conference selections, with senior Ben Dinter being the lone mainstay from last year’s 29-15 season. Such transitions led to the team recruiting 12 freshmen, their most since the 2013-14 season. The team has opened the season by winning three of five games.
“We’ve played well at times, and we’ve played like a young team at other times,” Head Coach Bill Kurich said. “We’re about exactly where I thought we’d be at this point.”
Even as the team looks to work through a lack of experience in comparison to other years, the team isn’t lacking in inspiration. Freshman players such as Nick Brummel and Vincent Vega talked about what it meant to see multiple players go professional, and what it means for the mindset of the team.
“Though I’ve never seen them play, I’ve heard nothing but the best about both of them,” Brummel said. “Both Josh and Kyle playing at the next level shows that if you’ve got a good attitude and work hard, you’ll get noticed.”
On the active roster, the team has 11 players listed as pitchers, seven of which being freshman. Thus far, sophomore Shane Donovan owns a 2-0 start, sophomore Matt Mulhearn is 1-1, and junior Adrian Santiago is 0-1.
Despite the loss of those five All-Conference players, the Gorloks are right on schedule. Around this time in 2017, the team had given up 16 runs and 32 hits for a 4-1 start to the season. This season, the team has given up 19 runs and 25 hits, highlighted by a 12-1 victory over Transylvania University that Vega believes could turn the season around.
“I think after this game, it gave us the much needed confidence,” Vega said. “To be the team we know we can be.”
In terms of adjustments for the future, Kurich said he would like to see more strikes from his young pitchers. The team figures to work through some of those inconsistencies prior to the Russmatt Central Florida Invitational, which takes place on March 10.
In terms of that preparation, Assistant Coach Zach Bishop discussed the examples that the two professional baseball players showed, and how the players can emulate it for the future.
“It definitely shows the younger guys what could happen if the right recipe of talent and hard work come together,” Bishop said. “It gives the young guys a vision or a model to chase in their day-to-day preparation and dedication to the game.”
Thus far, the Gorloks have survived that obstacle by winning 60 percent of their games.
The coaches also expressed the need to look toward the future. In terms of how the baseball team approaches recruiting in the future, the team believes Fleming and Uhrich’s impact will have a positive effect on swaying future prospects to come to Webster University.
“I think it’s a great thing for our program,” Kurich said. “I think it helps our current guys to give them aspirations to continue to play. It helps our recruiting, to bring in guys and let them know that we’ve got the ability to see guys move on to the next level.”