Bradynn Belcher, Campus Carrier staff writer
Concussions, broken fingers and back injuries have set the Berry Vikings baseball team off to an unexpectedly difficult start to the season.
The Vikings are currently 9-14 on the season and 4-5 in Southern Athletic Association (SAA) play. At this point last year, the baseball team was 18-9 and 8-1 in conference play.
David Beasley has been head coach of Berry’s baseball team for 25 seasons. Out of all 25 years that he has been head coaching at Berry, Beasley said that this may be the most difficult season he has had as a head coach, due to the adversity of facing an unprecedented number of injuries.
“This has probably been one of the toughest years, coaching-wise, that I have had here at Berry, only because we have had so many injuries,” Beasley said. “I always prepare for injuries, but I never was prepared for as many injuries as we have had this year.”
Early in the season, the Vikings lost their closing pitcher, senior Mason Carnes, to injuries. A closer’s job is to relieve the pitching staff and get the final outs of a game while his team has a lead. Early in the season, the team lost five games by two runs or less, situations where it would have been beneficial to have Carnes, according to Beasley.
“We have lost [a few] games by one run, and that’s where we would have counted on him,” Beasley said. “It’s tough, but that’s not an excuse.”
Now that the Vikings are halfway through conference play, Beasley has had the opportunity to develop sophomore Tyler Cassidy as the team’s new go-to closer.
“We have a closer now that does a magnificent job for us, but he wasn’t in that role at the first of the year, nor did I have him prepared to be in that role,” Beasley said. “But now, [Cassidy] is in that role. He closed out Birmingham, Piedmont, and Oglethorpe. He’s done a magnificent job.”
Despite the hardships faced so far this season, the Vikings upset the number one team in the nation, Birmingham-Southern College (BSC), in the third game of the three-game conference series with a score of 8-4. BSC has been ranked number one in the nation since March 7, according to d3baseball.com. The Vikings lost the first two games of the series by scores of 3-9 and 4-8.
Junior Nick Brunswick, a right fielder, leads the team in batting average and hits. The offensive leader credits their win against BSC to the team’s ability to build energy off one another and realization that they can compete with the best teams in the country.
“Just because a team is number one in the nation, I don’t think that means anything,” Brunswick said. “I credit our success to us coming together and realizing that we are better than we think we are. We strung together and built energy off of one another.”
Brunswick believes that the upset placed the season in a new perspective for the players.
“If we can go out there and trust ourselves and keep working hard, we can obviously get on top and beat anyone,” Brunswick said. “[The win] flipped a switch in a lot of kids minds that said ‘Okay, we lost to an unranked team but beat the number one team, why is that?’ I think it is just because we need to treat every team like it is the best team and so we come to the ballpark ready to play.”
Sophomore pitcher Jackson Halla was credited with the BSC win after throwing six full innings, allowing nine hits and three runs. Halla said he was not nervous, due to Beasley’s preparation.
“I was prepared for it because I had been in that role before,” Halla said. “Beasley treated it as a normal game. He wasn’t making it as big as he could have been because they are the number one team or anything.”
Beasley set a tangible goal for his team at the beginning of the season to finish first or second in the conference regular season. Since 2018 the team has finished in the top three in the SAA regular season, except for 2020 due to COVID-19.
Though the team has endured an unprecedented start to the regular season, they are still on an upward trajectory to accomplish their goal, according to Beasley.
“We have nowhere come close to playing our best baseball yet, and I hope we do play it, but we have not played it yet,” Beasley said.