In his 17 years at N.C. Wesleyan, coach Charlie Long has a national championship and five conference titles to his resume.
He has coached his fair share of talented teams that strung together victories. Unfortunately, this year the Bishops aren’t competing for a championship of any kind.
Marred in a season that has produced just five victories through the first 20 games, the Bishops are relegated to a much different role to end this year.
“Just kind of play it out and do the best you can and try to spoil other people’s seasons,” Long said. “That’s really all you can do. We’ll try to position ourselves for the future.
“That’s the way we’ll approach it, and we’ll see what happens.”
But the Bishops (5-14-1) can still help themselves starting this weekend with a three-game series against Averett.
N.C. Wesleyan closes the year with five series, four of which are against the four teams directly ahead of them in the USA South Conference standings. The Bishops also are in the middle of their best stretch of the season, having won three of the past eight games, including a tie against Mitchell (Conn.) in nonconfernece play.
“It’s the mental aspect of the game,” said pitcher Dillon Moore, who graduated from Nash Central High School. “We’re all college baseball players. We’re all physically able to get the job done. Just like hitting is contagious in that when one person gets a hit, then everybody gets a hit, I guess when things start going down hill, it’s really easy to let yourself get down.
“Everything keeps spiraling out of control, and that’s about the state we’re in right now.”
N.C. Wesleyan’s season began on Feb. 7 and has trudged through the inconsistent winter weather.
Amid a light rain that appeared to contain some snow flurries Wednesday, Long took to a ritual of hope that has dominated this year. The Bishops walked out to the practice field, hoping it would be dry enough to use for the day.
“It (has) been hard. It (has) been a challenge,” Long said. “But the way I look at it, it (has) been a challenge for all the teams we’ve played too. I’d never use that as an excuse because everybody (has) been dealing with that.”
Although all teams have dealt with the issue, some of Long’s players just aren’t used to the weather.
Sophomore shortstop Ciro Norzagaray hadn’t experienced much winter weather before he moved to Rocky Mount last year from his hometown of Mexico City. He said he doesn’t feel comfortable in the cold weather.
In baseball, a game rooted in repetition, it can be tough to find a rhythm or gain momentum when the only consistent part of practice is checking to see if the field is playable.
“We have been trying to figure it out for two months and before that,” Norzagaray said. “Things just aren’t going right. I don’t know why.”
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org