While the 2017 baseball season at New England College was the most successful in program history, ending with the Pilgrims coming within one win of a conference championship, the 2018 season has even more promise. When asking several players what the team goal is for the season, without hesitation they all responded with, “A National Championship.”
While that may seem like high hopes for a program that only two years ago won only seven games, there is a real sense that winning championships is within the Pilgrims’ reach. Head coach Chris Shank, who in his first year at NEC won 24 games, seems to have the program turned around and headed in a positive direction. Captain Justin Carey attributed the teams’ turnaround and continued success to Shank and the winning culture he has brought to the team.
“He brings experience and knowledge to the team,” said Carey, “Coach Shank pushes us to be the best on and off the field.”
The team is also aided by assistant coaches Terry Doyle, the pitching coach, and Jason Radwan, the infield and hitting coach.
Along with an experienced coaching staff are three captains who are helping to provide leadership to the team: Justin Carey, Jamie Carey and Evan Delaney. There is a team first attitude that starts with the captains, who echoed a “we before me” mindset, and talked about focusing on “one win at a time.”
This team-oriented attitude is extremely important for the 2018 Pilgrims due to the amount of transfers and freshmen that are on the team. With 10 freshmen and another 10-12 transfers, it will be important for the team to all buy into to team goals. Justin Carey stated that, “it takes a while to build camaraderie and talent will only get you so far.”
It is important for the team to work on coming together every day, and there is a sense that the team is really coming together at just the right time.
Something that will further their bond will be the trip to Myrtle Beach in the first week of March. Spring training and playing seven games in six days in Myrtle Beach are of great importance because the team is different than it even was in the fall. In order to overcome Castleton State and win the North Atlantic Conference they will need to be playing as a team.
The Pilgrims will be lead on the field by captain and pre-season All American Evan Delaney. In 2017 Delaney hit for a .391 batting average with 9 home runs and 41 runs batted in, he also contributed 33 stolen bases. New England College will be lead on the mound by Stanley Vargas who led the team last year in appearances, starts, saves, innings pitched and strikeouts as only a freshman.
With continued growth and production by Delaney and Vargas along with the rest of the returning starters, combined with the incredible amount of talent that has been brought into the program this year and leadership by coaches and captains, the goal of winning a National Championship seems more and more likely.
With the promising 2018 season ahead and first game in Myrtle Beach in only three weeks the players are looking forward to getting out on the field. They also wanted to express how excited they were to play home games at Laurie Cox Memorial Field, and the message they had to Pilgrim fans was simply stated by Justin Carey “It’s going to be a really exciting year, definitely come out and see the team.”