A glance at the win-loss record of the Virginia Peninsula Community College baseball team might indicate an unsuccessful season. Coach Shane Harrison admits following up the first 20-win season in school history with a 13-32-1 mark wasn’t what he envisioned. Still, he called it a success.
“Overall, I’d give it a good 7 out of 10,” he said a week after the season ended with a 14-3 loss to Rockingham Community College in the play-in game of the New South Athletic Conference. “Overall, I think we played well.”
The reasons behind his optimism included a tougher schedule than 2022, limited pitching and catching staffs, and the fact they were competitive in a lot of their losses.
“They just never quit,” Harrison said. “Every team we played said, ‘Gosh, you got a gritty bunch.’”
During games they were blown out, they employed a saying: Take the scoreboard out of the equation and play for pride.
“That’s what we did,” he said. “They never gave up, never gave up. That was one thing I could say about this team. They were gritty.”
A coaching change in the fall, and Harrison being the interim coach until he was named the head coach April 20 presented challenges to the coaches and players.
“It was hard at the beginning. There were a lot of questions that arose from that for sure,” said Harrison, adding once the “interim” tag was removed, a lot of weight was lifted off his players’ shoulders.
He’s losing 14 players, but has recruited about 30 so far. At least four of those departing players will continue their playing careers at four-year schools, including Nate Sherman at Virginia Commonwealth University.
“That’s something that helps build a program. That’s huge,” Harrison said.
He’s excited about starting fresh next year. He will be in his third year with the Gators, but the first time starting out as the head coach. As of now, he thinks pitching will be a strength a year from now. This year, that was a weakness.
The biggest struggle he sees is getting his newcomers acclimated to the next level of baseball and academics.
“It’s a little bit of a shock coming from high school to here,” he said. “College work is harder; baseball being every day, games being longer, the traveling. Just getting everybody acclimated is going to be a tough task.”
Along with a new season in the fall, Harrison hopes to bring a new culture, a new brand.
“We say, ‘There’s a new breed of Gator in the Swamp.’ That’s been our saying,” he said. “That is the plan, just bring a new breed of Gator.”
The team did garner some postseason awards this year, with infielders Sherman and Joey Williams named to the Region 10, Division III second team. First baseman Grant Adkins and second baseman Brandon Drewery were named to the all-defensive team.
For more information on VPCC athletics, go to www.vpcc.edu.