On March 11, 2020, the Longwood Baseball team lost to UNC Central by a score of 14-5. Little did they know, that would be the last game they would play in the 2020 season. Shortly after this game was played, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country harder than any home run. For months, the team wondered if the 2021 season was even a possibility, but then just weeks ago, the schedule was finalized and the team could finally prepare to suit up once more.
Head coach Ryan Mau voiced his excitement for the season opener, which will take place on Friday, February 19, against The Citadel. “It’s been too long. Having our season ripped away before it even got started was difficult. We have played a lot of inter-squad scrimmages all fall to make up for the lost time. To tee it up with another jersey on the other side of the field is something that we’re super excited about and eager to do.”
Mau went on to talk about how he kept the team focused during this extra long offseason, not knowing what the future would hold. “When you lose something like that as suddenly as we did, it gives you a lot of perspective. To have that happen was difficult, but eye-opening. A lot of our guys were able to see that you don’t know what tomorrow brings, so you have to take advantage of the opportunities that the day presents.”
Longwood will be fielding a very young squad this season, with only eight upperclassmen on a 39-man roster. One of those upperclassmen is Junior Outfielder Jack Schnell. In 2020, Schnell led the team in RBIs with 11, as well as batting .230 with three doubles and a home run before the pandemic cut the season short. Mau said that Schnell “has the potential to be one of the best hitters in the conference” for the 2021 season.
Schnell spoke on his role as an upperclassman on such a young team. “My role as a leader is to make sure all of the guys have the right mindset, whether we are at home or on the road, and to calm their nerves, especially these young guys who didn’t even get to finish their high school seasons. Going from high school to college is a big jump, and so I’m trying to make sure that they are calm and that their minds are in the right place.”
Schnell was one of many athletes around the world who had to find out how to stay in shape during the pandemic. He shared what it was like for him. “It was tough in the beginning. I’m from New York, so the pandemic was really bad up there. I was in my backyard and my little brother was throwing me balls. I would watch a lot of old game tapes to keep myself mentally there.”
With the light at the end of the tunnel finally here, the team prepares for a three-game series with The Citadel starting this Friday, before returning to Buddy Bolding Stadium on February 23 against UNC Central.