Cameron Krakowiak ’24
Half way through the first semester the Davidson Wildcat Baseball team has strived towards improving both as a team and individually as they draw closer to the start of an intriguing season. The ‘Cats are looking to bounce back this season after an up-and-down spring 2021 campaign, which boasted a win against ranked South Carolina while also holding a mediocre record of 11-13 in division play 27-24 overall.
When asked about the importance of the fall season, Head Coach Rucker Taylor stated that “the fall can be a lot more challenging. It can get a little bit monotonous at times. I think our goal from it is to try to develop the guys as best as we can. It’s okay if some days are kind of ugly or kind of sloppy. We want them to try different things.”
Director of Player Development and Coach Dylan Elber also spoke about the team and coaching goals in the fall for preparing for the spring.
“I think it’s more just a really good time to do some self-scouting and self-evaluation to see where guys are at after playing summer ball or after working out in the summer […] And then, also with all the new incoming freshmen and seeing the new transferred players, and just seeing where they’re at, how they might fit into our rotation or lineup.”
Coach Taylor shared a similar sentiment: “I definitely think it’s absolutely evaluation time. I think the older guys understand that, and I think the freshmen understand that.”
Coach Taylor spoke about the leadership coming from the older players on the team. “I’ve been really pleased with our senior leadership guys like Trevor [Candelaria ‘22] and Parker [Nolan ‘22], and our four older pitchers, and John Hosmer ‘22. I think they’re a really good leadership group. And Trevor in particular really kind of stood out to us as coaches and to some other players. And how he has gone about things. So yeah, I am definitely excited for this fall for a lot of reasons and this particular team that I’ve enjoyed being around.”
Candelaria’s bat surged last year, hitting .285 with 11 home runs, second on the team behind Ruben Fontes ‘21. He spoke about continuing his success with his power stroke: “It’s really just reinforcing the things that I kind of established last year, which is starting my swing a little bit earlier. So I have some time to react and make better decisions.”
Candelaria, who was sixth in home runs in the A10 last season, spoke on improving without the pressure of the real season on the line. “There is a lot less pressure, obviously, there’s not games that really count in there. So you can mess around with some things and just try to feel as good as you can going into the actual spring season. But overall, it’s really just about making mistakes and getting as much out of them as you can.”
Coach Elber elaborated on the fall practices, saying, “the fall is more of just a long development process where you have your practices and your inter-squads to work on specific things, and you’re not as concerned about just wins and losses.”
Right-handed pitcher Nolan Devos ‘23, who led Davidson and the Atlantic 10 in saves last year, spoke about how the pitching staff was looking this spring, “I think a lot of our pitchers have gotten a lot stronger and are throwing a lot harder.” Devos, who’s fastball tops out at 96 mph, also spoke about the demeanor of his teammates on the mound:
“I’m seeing every day that guys are excited to be out there, and guys are competing every pitch, which I think is something we kind of lost last year, during the spring season […] I think it’s definitely a big stepping stone for when we go into the spring and everybody’s ready top to bottom. Everyone is working hard to get where they want to be.”
Coach Taylor spoke about how the fall isn’t just about getting better at Baseball. After the COVID year, Davidson sports lost the ability to outreach in the community and be able to do team bonding, beyond the field:
“It is about being all encompassing, little stuff like getting involved in the community. Guys have walked the Davidson [Elementary] students to school. We did the K-8 Kickoff Initiative at Davidson Elementary too. We are trying to get guys to look outside themselves a little bit, which again, last year was really, really tough to do,” Coach Taylor said.
This Saturday, the Wildcats play the Duke Blue Devils in the Kannapolis Cannonballers minor league baseball stadium. Looking towards Saturday, Candelaria summed up the game perfectly:
“I think we get to play Duke usually two times a year. They might not consider it a rivalry, but I certainly do. We always want to beat them when we see them on our schedule. And you know, playing in that park […] I think it’s nice that it’s a neutral site. Fans from both the Duke fanbase and our fanbase and come out and then with that, it being parents weekend, it’s going to be really exciting to go and see my family but in the same way to see my teammates’. So we’re really looking forward to it, and I think it’ll be a pretty good evaluation to see where we are at as a team.”