Disciplined, aggressive, confident and unified.
Those are just four words that can be used to describe the Chestnut Hill College Baseball team. But more than just words on paper, these four adjectives, generated by the players themselves, served as the foundation for last season — the most successful in the program’s eight-year history.
“Every year we go on a team retreat and from the retreat, these are the four words our team created as what we wanted to be this year,” says Bob Spratt, head baseball coach. “And they formed our season. Everything we talked about at practice and meetings involved at least one of those concepts and sometimes all four.”
Focusing on these key concepts helped lead the Griffins to their first-ever East Regional ranking in the NCWBA Poll as well as a trip to the CACC Championship Final, their second in three years. The first, in 2013, resulted in the College being shut out in two games against Wilmington University. This year, the team again played Wilmington, falling only by the slightest margin in a closely contested extra inning game.
“The effort of our guys was phenomenal, and as unfortunate as it was that we lost the championship in extra innings, I think it proved monumental for our guys knowing that it really could have gone either way,” Spratt says. “Our guys are ready to compete. We’re there. It’s just a matter of believing it.”
After having rebuilt the baseball program at Penn State Abington and coaching there for eight years, Spratt took on the challenge of building CHC’s inaugural program, which played its first season in 2008. The team, composed of mostly freshmen, won just seven of 41 games that year. The next three seasons would see them win 18, 16 and then 19 games, respectively.
It was a humbling but not unexpected start for Spratt, who knew the challenges that came with developing and fostering a new program.
“I made an effort to recruit just freshmen to build the culture of the team and to find what kind of student athletes would fit best at CHC. So we kind of knew going in that we weren’t going to win a lot of games,” Spratt says.
In 2013 however, just two year’s removed from graduating the players who made up the original roster, all of Spratt’s efforts paid off. Despite only winning 20 of 47 games and barely earning inclusion in the CACC Baseball Championship tournament, Chestnut Hill shocked their conference when, as a sixth seed, they reached the championship final.
“People kind of perceived it as a fluke, but the people closely associated with the program, they knew it was just a matter of time,” Spratt says.
With the support of the administration, the coaching staff, the players, and all who had been involved in the program since its inception, the Griffins were able to reach that “turning point” as Spratt says, and are at a place now where they consider themselves to always be in the championship picture.
“Early on, the goal was to compete. We just wanted to compete,” Spratt says. “Now we take the field and we expect to win every game we play.”
Looking ahead to next season, the Griffins seem to have the pieces in place to do just that. In addition to returning many of the key players from this year’s run, the team has already begun to bring in a high-level recruiting class and recently announced a partnership with the Colonial School District to build a state-of-the-art baseball complex, complete with a press box, dugouts and lighting on the site of the current junior varsity baseball field at Colonial Elementary School.
“This is a game changer for our baseball program,” Spratt says, adding that, with the addition of the new stadium coupled with the hard work of the team and full support of the College, achieving the five-year goals of the team — to win a CACC Championship, be nationally ranked and to be able to go to a College World Series, “are definitely a realistic possibility.”