Saturday, April 19, 2014
Wheaton College held its graduation last Saturday.
David Longley and his five senior teammates on Wheaton College's baseball team had to wait a couple of extra days for their diplomas.
The Lyons, you see, were busy winning the New England Regional of the NCAA Division III tournament. That gave Wheaton its first appearance in the NCAA Division III College World Series since 2006.
So the wait was probably worth it for Longley, a right-handed pitcher from Brunswick.
"Yeah, they had a nice private ceremony for the six seniors on Monday," said Longley. "They made us sing 'Take Me Out To The (Ballgame).' "
That might not seem like normal graduation music but, Longley said, "I've gone to the service the last couple of years. They always do it. I think the administration gets a kick out of it moreso than the players."
Longley, a tri-captain for the Lyons, is looking forward to the opening game of the College World Series on Friday against Webster University.
On March 11, Longley, got the victory with 12/3 innings of relief over Webster, striking out three.
He appeared in 21 games for the Lyons (38-9), going 3-0 with two saves and a 0.90 ERA. Longley struck out 26 in 30 innings, walking seven.
Not bad for a kid who admittedly was a little rough when he first arrived at Wheaton.
"I think coming out of high school, my skill set was good," he said. "It was a matter of progression and mental development. I know I came in with the right stuff, then it was a matter of (the coaches) saying here's what you can do to maximize it."
Plus, Longley said, he had to realize that baseball was, well, baseball.
"When I got here, I was making the game out to be something more than it really was," he said. "Coach (Ed) Podbelski preaches that all the time. The game doesn't change, in the regionals, in the World Series at the end of the day, it's the same field, the same rules.
"That freshman year, it's hard to realize that. You feel you're on a bigger stage, everything needs to change. You have to throw harder. As you mature, you realize you don't have to do more than what you know you can do."
A starter all his life, Longley settled into a setup role as a sophomore. He had pitched only 72/3 innings as a freshman, but showed very quickly his sophomore year that he was ready for a bigger role.
Then he fractured his ribs at the end of winter workouts his junior year, setting him back. He pitched in only 13 games.
"I had high hopes for last year, so it was great to come back this year," he said. "This year wasn't so much about that I had something to prove. I am a senior and people know what I've done for the program.
"But I wanted to come back and play to my full potential. Plus, knowing it was the last time I was going to play competitive baseball, I wanted to get the most out of myself and my teammates."
Longley, honored as a New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference all-academic selection for the third consecutive year, graduated with a degree in history and Hispanic studies. He's not sure what his future holds, but he hopes it involves baseball. "Over these four years, I've been passionate about Spanish and baseball," he said. "Ideally, I can do something in which those two fields correspond."
Newbury College freshman third baseman Steven Broy of Gorham earned honorable mention recognition on the all-New England Collegiate Conference team. Broy played in all 45 games for the Nighthawks (23-22), batting .276 with 26 RBI and 22 runs. He had 11 doubles and two triples.
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