Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Storm adjusts to jump

PAINSVILLE, Ohio - The jump from Division III to Division II isn’t always easy.

Just ask Amherst graduate Brian McGee, who is entering his second season as manager of Lake Erie College’s baseball team.

Although McGee, a 1996 graduate of Amherst and a 2000 graduate of Tiffin University, is struggling through a 2-13 season. Thursday night’s home-opening 22-1 win over Case Western Reserve snapped an 11-game losing streak.

“It‘s a tremendous jump,” said McGee, who has 21 freshmen on the team. “We’re playing a real tough schedule and we’re challenging the guys. Even with the enormous jump, we’re at the front end of it . ... I always tell the guys, ‘If we want to be the best team — we gotta be able to beat the best teams.’”

After 15 games, the Storm are far from the best team, but McGee believes in his team that they will turn it around.

“I’m a tough guy to play for,” McGee said. “I’m not the kind of guy that is going to sugarcoat anything. I’m not the kind of coach that’s always going to be there to pat them on the back. My expectations of these guys are extremely high. I don’t care if they’re freshmen or seniors — they’re the guys that I believe in and I believe they can get the job done.”

Last year in his first year at the helm, he led the Storm to the most wins (17) in a season in school history. The team also earned its highest Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference (AMCC) finish of third place and earned its first bid to the postseason, winning twice in the first round of the AMCC Tournament in order to make it to the semifinals.

“This is the place where you want to be,” McGee said. “This is a program on the rise. We have exceptionally good talent on this program and they’re going to learn and build together. Right now people may be laughing and saying ‘They’re not as good as people were saying they were going to be’, but the jokes going to be on them in the next couple years.”

McGee’s early coaching stints include a head position at Lorain Catholic High School in the spring of 2003, an assistant position at the University of Toledo from 2001-02 and an assistant varsity and head freshman position at St. Frances High School in 2001. He also served as the assistant varsity and head junior varsity coach at Greensboro College from 2003-07.

“I‘ve always felt that Lorain had a lot of players that were overlooked,” McGee said. “Lorain County is an untapped resource. I’ve always thought about two things when I got out of college and I got my own head coaching job. One — I wanted to give back to the community that gave me the opportunity to excel to play the game of baseball that I love; and two — I wanted to be the first one to come in and tap into those resources.”

Freshmen Ryan Rua (Amherst), Cameron Castro (Southview), Matt Toth (Admiral King),
Kyle Koberna (Elyria Catholic) and Adam Beach (Vermilion), along with sophomore Dan Dowdell (North Ridgeville), are locals that made the team this year.

Rua is batting .373 and has started all 14 games and sports a .967 fielding percentage from his shortstop position. He has also hit four homeruns, two triples, four doubles and has 17 RBIs, which all lead the team. He has also pitched 2 2/3 innings and has four strikeouts.

“Ryan has been a tremendous asset to this program,” McGee said. “I couldn’t be more pleased with the type of character he holds and the ability and the way he’s performed on the field for us. He’s playing at a higher level than I thought he would be, starting off at, but it does not surprise me — because he works really hard.”

Castro has made six pitching appearances and is 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA. He has pitched 8 2/3 innings and has allowed just three earned runs.

“Cameron is academically very sound, coming in with a 4.0 GPA or close to,” McGee said. “He’s very smart and fields his position very well. On the pitching side of things, he’s been a go-to guy therefore he leads the team in appearances.”

Toth has started 11 games and is batting .231 (9 of 39) with a double, triple and three RBIs.

“Matt’s working real hard,” McGee said. “He is a little tough on himself right now — he’s not hitting the way that he’d want to, but he’s making a lot of hard outs. A batting average doesn’t dictate to me how well a guy is swinging a bat. He’s a total team guy. He’s contributed in more ways than people would understand.”

Dowdell, a sophomore, splits time in the outfield and is batting .261 with three RBIs. Koberna, a left hand pitcher, who is battling with arm troubles has made three appearances. Beach is a red-shirt freshman that McGee is excited about — even saying he might just be his best arm on the team.

“I try to stay positive with them as much as possible,” McGee said. “I’m hard on them, but at the same time, I give them a lot of love and a lot of respect. They know that I care about them.”

McGee himself was a four-year letter winner as a starting third baseman and outfielder at Tiffin. He was a team captain, earned all-conference and was selected to Team USA to compete in Austria, Czechoslovakia and Germany.

Tyler Minnich (Keystone) and Rey Carrion (Southview) are also two local prospects that McGee is pursuing for next year.

“I want to represent my alumni well and the community I was raised in and grew up in,” McGee added. “I’m very proud of where I’m from.”

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home