COA Dolphins baseball sets sights on playoffs in 2014

By on February 19, 2014

coabaseballOne game, one run and one gut-wrenching 13-inning loss. Those memories linger with a College of The Albemarle baseball team itching to get back on the field for the 2014 season.

The Dolphins finished last season 27-23 — an eight-win improvement over 2012. But a 4-3 loss to Lenoir in the 2013 finale kept COA out of the National Junior College Athletic Association Region 10 tournament.

“It’s always a goal to go to the playoffs,” said Tyler Woodhouse, now a sophomore. “We should have locked it up before the last game.”

Woodhouse and his returning teammates have plenty of reasons to think this season will be different. Some veterans and a host of newcomers — 15 freshmen — have COA aiming for a playoff bid heading into the program’s fifth season. The Dolphins have won 19 or more games in each of COA’s first four seasons since the college resurrected its baseball program in 2010.

“I definitely see that we have a really good chance to win as much as we want to win,” said Woodhouse, a Camden County High School graduate. “I feel like we’re a lot more well-rounded. We’ve got more pitchers and we’re a better hitting team. That’s what’s going to be the difference.”

Woodhouse is among a handful of pitchers who return from a roster that compiled a 2.97 team ERA. Right-hander Travis Davis led Dolphins’ regulars last season with a 2.30 ERA in 18 appearances, while three fellow returners also played key roles on the mound last season as freshmen: right-hander Brandon Marsh (2.62), left-hander Woodhouse (2.65) and right-hander Austin Lilly (2.75).

Davis, from Asheboro, N.C., also batted .375 last season, and is joined in the lineup by Woodhouse (.273 batting average) and catcher Cody Foreman. Foreman, a sophomore from Swansboro, N.C., was among the team leaders last season with 45 hits, and he finished with 16 RBIs and a .259 batting average.

COA also expects to get a boost on the mound and at the plate from its crop of 15 freshmen. Among the newcomers expected to contribute right away are pitcher/outfielder Cedric Henry, a Suffolk, Va., native who attended King’s Fork High; and infielder Brent West, who arrives from Atlee High in Mechanicsville, Va.

Long-distance arrivals include infielder Andy Herrera (Miami), Venezuelan catcher/infielder Julio Rosales and two Dominican Republic natives: pitcher Richard Marte and infielder Ricky Carvajal.

“We have some pretty good hitters this year and we have some transfers that are going to help us out,” said assistant coach Juan Carlos Calderon, who joins the Dolphins’ staff this year in head coach Milan Rasic’s third season.

Blending 15 freshmen with 16 veterans hasn’t been an issue.  “Everybody is linked together and takes care of each other,” Calderon said. “That’s a good thing for the team. Everybody is on the same page.”

Added Foreman, “It’s definitely a different team than last year. You could just tell we were going to be a close team. We’re all kind of like a family.”COA2

One thing, though, hasn’t changed: the team’s goal of reaching postseason.  COA last year appeared well on its way after starting the season with 10 wins in its first 13 games. But the Dolphins stumbled midway through, losing 10 of 12 games.

Each of their final five games was decided by one run, and the Dolphins defeated Lenoir 1-0 and 2-1 before heading into the regular-season finale. COA led the finale 2-1 before allowing a ninth-inning run to force extra innings. Each team scored in the 10th, but Lenoir won with a run in the top of the 13th inning.

The Dolphins haven’t forgotten that bitter ending.

“I think they have a chip on their shoulders,” Calderon said. “That’s their motivation, just to get there – to the tournament, somehow, some way.”

“We’ve been talking about winning the conference as a team goal,” Foreman added. “We all see we have the talent, and we all want to go as far as possible.’

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