Zack Peñalva,Sports Editor
Rebuilding is never easy, but that’s the job that new head coach Manny Cervantes has been given with the Eagles’ baseball team. After a disappointing season in 2014, Cervantes has plans to raise the bar for the team through the benchmarks he’s set. “Anything below the benchmarks is unsuccessful,” said Cervantes in an interview. “We’ve put a benchmark at 20 wins.”
After going 11-33 last season, Cervantes is looking to improve by having internal competition bring the best out of his players. When the team met last Friday, the batting practice had the feel of audition. It’s a culture of competition that puts the focus on getting results, not glorifying seniority. “No one’s entitled [to playing time].” Cervantes said. “The best guys that give us a chance to compete and win are the guys that get the most innings.”
These benchmarks aren’t limited to on the field performance either. “I’m the first to say we’ve got work to do, “ Cervantes said. A long-term goal is to change the way the team is perceived by the campus and that the image will be a positive one. After the first semester of this school year revealed that the team’s GPA was around a 2.8, Cervantes was quick to say it wasn’t good enough. “Success is not just the baseball side…it’s not just the faith side. It’s all three of those areas [faith, baseball and academics].”
The Eagles’ open their season today, away against Martin Methodist. After a long preseason, Cervantes will finally be able to see what his team is bringing to the table. Despite feeling confident about the team’s offense and defense, there was concern about the strength of the Eagles’ pitching. “We’ve added a little bit of depth, but we’ve had a couple injuries,” Cervantes pointed out.
Those looking to see first-hand how well the team plays will be able to get their first look during the Eagles’ home opener on February 13 against Bluefield College at 1 p.m. As for Cervantes over-arching philosophy for changing the team, it will come down to waiting to see when his plans come to fruition.