How do our favorite glove-wearing, home run-hitting Lions expect to overcome the frustrating air of uncertainty that has defined the past seven months? The continued absence of a finalized 2021 baseball schedule is certainly concerning, as is the fact that this year’s sophomore class has seen a mere 16 games of action.
Let us briefly go back in time to last spring’s abrupt shutdown. In early March, our boys were coming off a three-game sweep of San Jose State and looked to excite their 8-8 record by sparring with Brigham Young University to begin West Coast Conference (WCC) play. As a matter of fact, they had won five of their last six games.
But it was there in Provo that the first shoe dropped: no fans were permitted in the stadium. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Just players and coaches. Star senior pitcher Josh Agnew recalled, “I was supposed to pitch the next day, and my mind was nowhere near my start. Maybe an hour before we were supposed to go to the field, [they] came out saying we can’t have fans … my Mom and Dad flew out to Utah to come and watch me play, and as soon as they both got off the plane, I had to tell them they had to hop on a plane right back.”
News from the East also found its way into the locker room when the Ivy League announced America’s first postponement. Then followed the cancellation of all U.S. collegiate sporting activities. The team waited. Then eventually, inevitably, almost mercifully, it was announced that the WCC would also suspend their remaining conference games.
It’s no surprise that the primary emotion felt by sophomore captain Dylan Dennis was "frustration. For the seniors ... [I'm] getting a little emotional just thinking about it, because I remember seeing their faces. That was tough to watch."
Yet, the current baseball squad is not dragging its feet or reminiscing about a lost season. Likewise, second-year Head Coach Nathan Choate hasn’t flinched, and spoke about spring play as if it were a certainty. When asked about his team’s springtime goals, he stated, “Win a Super Regional. It’s something that LMU has never done before, but that’s not my goal. That’s the players’ goal. [This summer] we had seven guys in a leadership class, and each week we went over different leadership philosophies and objectives. I asked them to come up with those goals, and at the end of the day, their goal is way more powerful than anything that myself or my coaching staff can ask.”
His players are on the exact same page. When asked the same question, Agnew immediately said: “Definitely win a Super Regional.” And confidence is at an all-time high for sophomore utility player Mason Kokodynski, who responded instantly with: “The goal is plain and simple, [it’s] to win the WCC tourney, our regional, then the Super Regional. After that, we’ll be in Omaha, Nebraska for the College World Series.”
For those who are unfamiliar with college baseball’s playoff formatting, Kokodynski just summarized it with remarkable ease. The top four seeds in the West Coast Conference compete in the WCC tournament, and the winner is rewarded with a regional appearance, where another four-team battle ensues. Finally, the coveted Super Regional round (two teams, three-game series) determines the participants in the College World Series.
So how do the 2021 Lions take that precious first step into a season with high aspirations? “Just live in the moment,” responded Agnew calmly. “We have this saying on our team which is, ‘be where your feet are.’ Don’t take anything for granted, because you don’t know how long it’s going to last.”