By Bridget Walsh
This article was originally published in Issue 11, Fiftieth Year of The Minstrel (March 24, 2016). Click here to view the entire issue.
Spring is in the air, which can only mean one thing: It is time for some baseball. DeSales’ spring sport athletes have been preparing long and hard for this time of year when they can finally hit the fields and play some games. For the 27th time in his career at DeSales University, head coach Tim Neiman is preparing to lead his Bulldogs to another successful season.
At the beginning of February, the Bulldogs were picked to finish second in the MAC Freedom Conference preseason poll, just behind rival Misericordia University. Neiman, who is the only coach at DeSales to surpass the 600-career win mark, has a lot of expectations for his team this season.
“Every year, our goal is to extend our season, and we can do that by making the playoffs and getting to the regional tournament with the ultimate prize of getting back to the College World Series,” he said, adding that those expectations “haven’t changed in 27 years.”
Over spring break, the Bulldogs travelled to Texas for a five-game series against a lot of strong, competitive teams. Although their record was 2-3, Neiman believes that the experience only made the team better.
“It was a tough trip, especially because it rained a couple days and took us out of our rhythm, but it makes us better, and [playing Haverford] was a good example.”
The Bulldogs faced Haverford College on March 16 and defeated them 12-1, scoring 10 runs in the first four innings. Being exposed to some of the best teams in the country while in Texas really allowed the team to see that the competition back home does not necessarily stack up.
This season, the team has a large lineup even after making cuts in the offseason. Among this 36-man roster is a good mix of returning role players and young talent. Having a deep roster means that Neiman has to manage everyone properly because the team has a lot of potential. But just as any team with a lot of young players, success will require a lot of patience. The team also features some returning first- and second-Team All-MAC Freedom players from last season, including seniors Colby Kulig, Evan Fraser, Steven Wallace and Alec Hardy; juniors Tommy DePaul and Mike Kacergis; and sophomore Conner Lafferty.
“We have a lot of guys back, and with that comes a lot of experience,” Neiman said. “They don’t really panic in tough situations, they’re used to the pressure and the tradition of the winning. There’s obviously a lot of benefit to that, especially because they provide a lot of leadership.”
The team also features 11 freshmen, a talented class with a lot of expectations.
“They’re trying to find their way, so sometimes I need to be a little patient with them so they make the adjustments to the college games,” Neiman said. “But they obviously have talent; otherwise they wouldn’t be here.”
In order to succeed and make a run during the postseason, the Bulldogs need to take advantage of their strengths and not worry about who is in the other dugout or “beat themselves.”
“Our team chemistry is really good. I don’t know how you coach it, but the leadership of the upper- class guys have helped them blend,” Neiman said. “They really buy into [the idea that] it’s amazing how much we can accomplish if nobody cares who gets the credit. From a field standpoint, we have really good team speed, really good defense. So far, our pitching has been very good. It’s all a matter of finding a good offensive rhythm, but we’re one of those teams where the more we play, the better we are.”
With an overall record of 6-8 as of March 30, the Bulldogs are looking to improve as important conference and non-conference games approach. While winning matters, Neiman “really just enjoys being around the kids. Playing the game is secondary, but being able to watch them grow and mature is really enjoyable.”