Baseball seniors leave a legacy amidst disappointment
Another senior class is moving on, but not without leaving a legacy of determination. | Kyle Kohner/THE CHIMES
As it goes every year, the end of the spring semester brings with it the graduating of another senior class. Although seniors Sean McCarrell, Daniel Rasmussen, Jeremy Barth, Sam Thorne, Jimmy Gallarda, Rawley Hughes, Gabe Ihrig, Andrew Frank, Jonas Wellan and Buddy Brouwer could not leave the Eagles with a Golden State Athletic Conference championship or a strong run in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics tournament, they leave behind a long-lasting legacy.
Four years ago, as many of these seniors began their first year at Biola, so did current head coach Jay Sullenger. Sullenger joined the Eagles in 2014 after serving as the assistant and associate head coach at James Madison University.
“[Sullenger] and I got to go on the journey. Him and I came in together and his first year was my first year,” Gallarda said. “I was one of his first recruits and we got to rebuild this program together.”
The current seniors experienced their first taste of collegiate baseball on a team divided by those recruited by Sullenger and the those from the previous coaching staff. Although their bond as ballplayers formed a healthy team community, the change in coaching styles brought understandable tension.
“My first couple of years, the seniors, it was a weird dynamic because a lot of them liked the old coach, so they weren’t necessarily happy with the coaching change,” Rasmussen said. “The negative side was disagreement and not a lot of the guys were bought in.”
Learning from example
Despite the division among the team, the current seniors learned from the example set by the upperclassmen of their first two seasons.
“They all taught me to have fun when playing,” Rasmussen said. “I think all of the older guys played really loose, which was a learning thing for me because I’d always been uptight about having to perform and stuff.”
As the years went by, the baseball team gradually improved to the point where they went 31-27 in 2016, reaching the GSAC tournament for the first time since 2012 and going all the way to the championship game. The Eagles continued that success as they rallied back from an 0-5 start in the conference to finish the 2017 season in second place at 35-18.
A new beginning
Despite their momentum, the Eagles were quickly eliminated from the GSAC tournament and eventually found out they had not been selected for the NAIA tournament.
“We watched the reveal of the rankings and it was quiet after it finished for a bit,” Rasmussen said. “We [the seniors] made it a point afterwards that things aren’t going to go your way, but it’s more about how you respond to those things.”
However, it was in that moment of disappointment that many of the seniors realized the legacy they wanted to leave behind. Instead of giving into their frustration, they saw the end of their collegiate careers as a new beginning for those coming back next season and hope that their imparted wisdom continues to impact the Eagles as they transition into the NCAA.
“For me, I just wanted all the guys to know to use this as an opportunity to fuel you for next year and say, ‘I’m going to give it everything I have,’” Gallarda said.