Lopes grow stronger through unique situation
By: Zach Melcher/GCU Club Sports Writing Staff
Grand Canyon University Club Baseball entered the 2020 fall season eager to play, but with no outside matches being played, they had to get creative. The Lopes shifted their focus inwards with practices and intrasquad scrimmages.
“We met our protocols and kept moving positively through the ‘healthy play stages’,” said Lopes’ D1 Head Coach Rich Warnol. “The guys were happy to be on the field and grow closer as teammates in an outdoor setting.”
Once the spring semester rolled around, the Lopes were given the green light to compete, but two major problems loomed. All play for GCU’s home conference, the National Club Baseball Association Southern Pacific Division, was shut down for 2021. The Lopes’ normal second option, the Phoenix-area community colleges. were not yet given the green light to play in January (and when finally allowed, were prohibited from playing anyone other than conference foes).
So, the Lopes had to look elsewhere.
Fortunately, the Lopes eventually created a 16-game schedule against the two other Valley college teams willing to play against outside competition: Arizona Christian University’s prospect team and Ottawa University’s developmental team.
“Although it was a shortened season, we had games that had some great pitching, home runs, clutch hits, and highlight film defensive plays,” said Lopes’ D2 Head Coach Kim Carpenter. “It was a season of being thankful just to play, grateful for our health, and appreciative of the opportunity to compete.”
The hardships of a season riddled with COVID restrictions only proved to the Lopes how much stronger they could become.
“The players found it difficult to get in much of a rhythm when playing one game a week and not a weekend series like they normally would,” said Warnol. “The program would have made a run in both the Division 1 and Division 2 of the NCBA this year with the talent here on campus.”
The Lopes’ combined roster ended the 2020-21 season with a record of 5-10-1. With this unusual season behind them, the Lopes look forward to a regular 2021 preseason and 2022 NCBA schedule – along with hopes to compete in the postseason.
“Even though our play was restricted by set protocols, it was great to be able to get out and play ball,” said Lopes’ catcher Connor Lawrence. “I am looking forward to next season to be able to play against other universities in our conference so that we can show them how good our organization has become in the past year – even though we faced COVID.”
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