By Sarah Cavender ’20
The Lakers baseball team spent the fall of 2022 anticipating the chance to compete in the 2023 Small College World Series, which they missed last season after five consecutive appearances. The Lakers are using that absence as a driving force.
The Lakers will start this season with a new head coach and several first-year student-athletes.
John Bailey, interim head coach, is no stranger to the program as he has been the assistant for the past eight seasons. Bailey pitched at Indiana State University, NCAA Division I, for three years. Coach Bailey is married with two children and lives in Coldwater, Ohio.
His staff includes assistant coaches Brennan Meyers and Cory Cottrell, both of whom played for the Lakers.
“We are young, athletic and have a lot of power,” said Bailey. “I’m looking forward to each player learning their role as our team becomes a family.”
The string of five consecutive appearances in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Small College World Series ended in 2022. However, Bailey said that’s motivated the Lakers to make a comeback this season.
“We are going to have to do the little things right and limit our mistakes,” said Bailey of the team’s goal of qualifying for the Small College World Series. “We want to make an impact while we are there. We want to win games and push for a championship.”
From transfer students to recruits coming from areas as close as Versailles and as distant as Florida, the team is made up of a variety of skilled players. But their collective goal is to return to the Small College World Series.
“We’re very hungry because of last year’s results, and we’re still very young,” said first baseman Drew Emerson, who earned Second Team All-America honors. “But we want to make a name for ourselves and compete this year.”
Emerson, from Springboro, Ohio, is a sophomore and general business major at the Lake Campus. Nick Hundley, a second baseman from Enon, Ohio, also earned Second Team All-America honors. Emerson, Hundley, and Sam Conklin, a senior left-handed pitcher from Waterville, Ohio, are co-captains.
As captains, they lead drills and show their teammates how to carry themselves as college baseball players and deal with all the challenges that come with being a student-athlete. The co-captains also help younger players adjust to college life.
One of the first-year players is shortstop Noah McEldowney, who graduated from Versailles High School. “Probably one of my favorite memories so far has been the Halloween game,” McEldowney said. “Everyone dressed up, and I was a banana person.”
“It’s a big adjustment for a lot of these kids coming from smaller schools,” Hundley said. “It [Lake Campus] is not a huge college, but there are bigger classes, and you have to stay on top of the classes. Baseball year-round, and the weight room is a big thing—helping them get better at their craft on the baseball field.”
Hundley is looking forward to the upcoming season with new players and renewed motivation.
“I can tell a big difference. Last year we didn’t click as well as we did this year,” Hundley said. “Having those teammates and guys you can count on and working together through stuff helps a lot. And it’s a lot of fun once you start playing baseball and spending all this time with your teammates and friends and brothers.”
The shared competitive experiences create lifelong memories. As Hundley recalls, “The Small College World Series in Pennsylvania was really what got me hooked my freshman year. It was unbelievable. The field is beautiful, and the competition’s crazy. There’s a home run derby, and the softball World Series going on at the same time. It’s just an unbelievable environment. Last year we didn’t qualify, which was kind of disappointing because, at a program like ours, that’s our goal, to make the postseason.”
The Lakers baseball program provides student-athletes the opportunity to pursue careers in professional baseball. In July 2021, pitcher Casey Grimm, an M.B.A. graduate, signed a contract to pitch for the Florence Y’alls in the independent Frontier League. Grimm led the Lakers to their most recent appearance in the Small College World Series and was named USCA Player of the Year, a First Team All-American, and an Academic All-American.
The Lakers travel quite a bit for games, practices, and tournaments. One way they finance travel is through two fundraising events. During the fall, they host a golf outing, and, during their first home game, they open with a raffle.
“We’re a self-supported program,” Hundley said.
To support the Wright State Lakers baseball team, please visit wright.edu/give/lakebaseball.
This article was originally published in the spring 2023 issue of the Wright State Magazine. Read more stories at wright.edu/magazine.