FREDERICKSBURG, Va. — “It’s a challenge,” said University of Mary Washington baseball coach, Wayne Riser. “We’ve got good potential and the guys are buying in a lot better than I expected,” reported the coach who left Shepherd last fall after 21 seasons, carrying with him the most wins in school history along with four conference championships.
Mary Washington is a NCAA Division III school with no athletic scholarships. The Eagles are members of the Capital Athletic Conference.
Through March 25, the Eagles had a 14-8 overall record and had won seven of their last eight games. They had just swept a three-game series from conference rival, St, Mary’s, and then won two of three against visiting Frostburg State and had a 5-1 record in the league.
Last season, Mary Washington lost more often than it won. Riser arrived on campus after the 2012-13 school year had already begun. He couldn’t recruit for this year’s team and had to accept the players already in the program.
“It’s been a good situation. There are no academic problems with my players at this school. Every player has at least a 2.5 grade point average. I’ve had no issues, and these are all basically good kids,” said Riser.
Riser had WVIAC championships in three of his last eight seasons at Shepherd. The last of those titles came last year when the Rams got through the league’s eight-team conference tournament in Johnstown, Pa. Shepherd was able to play in the Division II Atlantic Regional in West Lawn, Pa.
“We’ve got players who could play at Shepherd,” said Riser. “I’ve got four pitchers that can be trusted. Two of them are seniors (Mike Straub and Torey Mancari), but there’s freshman Bernard Mayflower and junior Jake Black. Three of them have ERAs under 2.00.”
There are several sophomres and freshmen sprinkled throughout Riser’s lineup.
“Our facility is really nice. It’s a legitimate facility — 330 down the lines, 370 to the power alleys, and over 400 to center. We’ve played 14 home games and there have been no home runs hit by either side.
“I’ve got a full-time, four-man ground crew and they do a good job. Mary Washington is a southern school in this conference. The weather is usually better than it is in Frostburg, Wesley (Delaware), St. Mary’s, York, and Salisbury (the other five conference schools playing baseball).”
Division III schools do their best to keep athletics from being too invasive on academics. Mary Washington’s schedule started on Feb. 10 and the last game is on April 16. Then comes the Capital Athletic Conference tournament where the Eagles will probably see the nation’s No. 1 ranked team again in Salisbury.
“I believe we’ve got a good jump on it. It was hard getting adjusted at the beginning, but we’ve already gotten three commitments for next year.
“The administration wants to compete at the national level and it is helpful toward finding ways to accomplish that goal.”
The Capital Athletic Conference tournament will seed the teams by the regular season league records.
“If we finish up well, we could get an at-large bid to the national tournament even if Salisbury wins our tournament,” said the coach new to Division III ways.
Riser has made his baseball reputation as a hitting instructor, working at summer camps like the Cal Ripken, Sr. two weeks at Mt. St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, hosting youth camps and lecturing at clinics.
Even though none of his players have hit any home runs so far, he does have Seth Jordan batting .406 through 19 games and T. J. Cretney not far behind at .380.
An earlier game scheduled in Winchester against non-league opponent, Shenandoah, was postponed by foul weather, but has been rescheduled for Sunday, April 14, at Bridgeforth Field at 1 p.m. Geographically speaking, that is the closest location to the Eastern Panhandle that the Eagles will play.
“We’ve got some good players. The five-game winning streak has given us even more optimism that this first season can be a success”, said Riser.
The Eagles of Mary Washington and Coach Wayne Riser have already come together to form a better on-field team than the school showed just last year.
Riser is pleased with the first-class facilities and what his players have accomplished through the early conference schedule.
“I’ve made more contacts in the area than when I was at Shepherd. The Tidewater area is close enough to recruit over there. The high school coaches that I was familiar with when at Shepherd could help us here as well. Finding the right players shouldn’t be too difficult.”
It seems the right direction for Riser was south of where he spent about 30 years as a player and earned both an undergraduate and graduate degree.
South to Fredricksburg. And the four-man ground crew to care for Dickinson Stadium and its legitimate outfield fences.