Baseball Planted Seed for Future Success

Virginia Peninsula Community College baseball coach Shane Harrison compared growing a baseball program to growing anything else. It starts with a seed, and that is how he described the 2024 season.

“We said at the beginning of the year that we’re planting a fruit seed,” said Harrison, who completed his second season as head coach of the Gators after one as an assistant. “I told them we’re not going to eat fruit tomorrow, but the seed has been planted.”

Next comes watering and nourishing it.

“I think it was a great growing season,” Harrison said.

The program had a lot of firsts in 2024: the first three-game sweep (at home against Monroe College of the Bronx in mid-February), the first no-hitter (five pitchers combined to hold Chowan University, a Division II school, hitless in a game in mid-March), their first NCAA Division III Region 10 all-tournament player (pitcher Kaden Hunley).

“The guys bought in a little late to our madness, how we like to coach and how we like to do things,” Harrison said. “As soon as they bought in and started seeing things and doing things that we have preached the whole time, things really matured.”

Four players – Marco Fernandez, Jayden Alvarez, Isaiah Bracy and Hunley – made second-team all-region.

“That was huge,” Harrison said.

Bracy also made the all-region defensive team.

The team’s strength, said Harrison, was how they bonded.

“They never gave up. If we had to take the scoreboard out of the equation just to play for pride, they did that. If we had to take it out of the equation just to play for each other to make it respectable, they did that,” he said. “Our strength was definitely our family atmosphere that we instilled from the get-go. That was big for us.”

The players struggled at times with the mental aspects of the game. The Gators might outhit an opponent and have no physical errors but would make mental mistakes.

“They would take a play off or not give 100% on a certain play and (the opponent) would capitalize,” Harrison said. “That was our biggest downfall this year.”

Harrison was appreciative of the school’s support and effusive in praising his volunteer assistant coaches. He already has turned his attention to next year. Alvarez, Fernandez and Hunley highlight the returning players, and Harrison already he has lined up commitments. He is losing just seven players, five of whom are expected to play at the next level.

The Gators will take off most of May and June before getting into the weight room in July.

“And then we’re right back at it in August. It’s not a lot of down time,” Harrison said.

He’s looking for that seed to germinate.

“We’re ready to watch that tree grow next year,” he said. “I’m excited but I’m ready for a good three- or four-week break for sure.”