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GCU Club Baseball 2019: Meeting high expectations

July 2, 2019

By: David Carter/GCU Staff

To say that 2019 was a good season for GCU Club Baseball is an understatement.

A better word is “great”.

In a season that saw both the Division I and II teams struggle to find their rhythm early on, both picked it up significantly down the stretch to have arguably their best seasons to date.

Division I

“When we left that place (the National Club Baseball Association DI World Series) last year, there was high expectations from other people’s staffs that we would get back,” said Lopes’ DI Head Coach Rich Warnol. “We made the right run at the right time. Our pitching staff and offense were good, and we were happy to be back.”

In 2018, the Lopes finished first in the Southern Pacific – South Conference, won the NCBA Southern Pacific Regional Tournament, and finished third at the World Series, losing in the semifinals.

In 2019, they went one better.

The Lopes repeated as conference and region champions again, and finishedsecond at the World Series, losing in the championship game to the University of Illinois.

Although GCU may have lost in the title game, the season and experience of playing in the World Series was something that the team cherished.

“I am very glad I played,” said Lopes’ freshman pitcher Eli Graham. “I went into club baseball not knowing what to expect, and I ended up building an amazing relationship with every single guy on the team. We went out there, had fun and did pretty well because of it. Coming up short?  That obviously hurt a lot, but there wasn’t anything else I would change from this past season.”

While graduation and other factors will adjust who Graham’s teammates will be on the roster next year, the 2019 experience is something Graham will always have etched in his memory.

“There is not really a better place than playing for GCU’s club team,” said Graham. “We could do anything together outside of baseball, and I have made friends from club baseball that I will have for the rest of college. Without club baseball, I would not have made those important friends.”

Division II Team

After finishing second in the Pacific Region South Conference, then going two-and-out in the Pacific Regional Tournament in 2018, the DII team also improved their lot a year later.

This season, the Lopes won the conference and reached the semifinals of the regional tournament, notching a win over conference rival Arizona State University along the way.

“It was great to win conference knowing it gave us an automatic bid,” said Lopes’ DII Head Coach Fred Speck. “We went into regionals with some players missing, and we just wanted to give it our best shot. It was a good feeling to finally get a victory at regionals. We still have some work to do to get to the next level.”

Although the DII team made some significant progress this past season with the team, Speck is departing the program to focus on his own baseball business.

“I will be stepping away this year to focus on my baseball club, Niners Baseball Club, but I am proud that I have been part of building a program and winning tradition with Coach Warnol,” said Speck. “It’s been an amazing opportunity, and I have loved every minute working with the young men at GCU. I will miss it, and I will always be proud that I wore the purple for my four years here.”

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