Jan. 26, 2020
Only three of the 14 years in Biola University baseball coach John Verhoeven’s career has his team failed to finish in the top three of the Golden State Athletic Conference. Last year was his worst finish as the Eagles coach, finishing seventh in the conference. With less talent this year, the coach knew it was going to take something different to get back to the top. That difference? Resiliency.
“Our team is a resilient one,” Verhoeven said. “This is not the most talented club I’ve ever coached, but it is certainly the most resilient.”
The comeback at Westmont College on March 12 was where Verhoeven first realized the potential of this year’s team. Down to their final out, the Eagles rallied back to tie the game in the ninth, then scored two runs in the 12th to finish off the comeback win. After that win and similar wins against Vanguard, Point Loma Nazarene and Azusa Pacific, the coach made resiliency an unofficial team theme.
“It got to a point where, when teams went up on us and got comfortable, I thought,‘You have no idea what’s coming,’” Verhoeven said.
Despite their confidence and desire to win, the team was always sure to remember they were playing a game and games are meant to be fun.
"We try not to take ourselves too seriously. We have fun,” Verhoeven said. “If you don’t have fun playing ball, then find something else that is fun.”
NAIA First-Team All-American Drake Fages, who transferred to Biola after two seasons at Cal Baptist University, also characterized the team as resilient:
“Guys went down with injuries and fought back,” Fages said. “Guys filled in for injured players and played well. One guy played a position he had never played before and was named All-conference.”
Brian Loard, an All-Golden State Athletic Conference catcher, was that “one guy” playing catcher for the first time in his collegiate career and thriving, also earning NAIA honorable mention All-America honors.
Shortstop Johnny Farrington and center fielder Mike Andrews excelled after the starters ahead of them got hurt. Cameron McVey was named GSAC Reliever of the Year after recording 14 saves this season, double the next highest total in the conference.
These individual achievements reflect a season filled with true team play, carrying the Eagles all the way to the NAIA National Championship Tournament where they reached the championship game of the Opening Round Bracket in Joliet, Illinois.
That resiliency again came through in the Opening Round as Biola came from behind to win the first game of the tournament to set the tone. Despite losing in the championship game, the Eagles’ surprise season returned them to the top of the GSAC and back into the national eye.
Biola finished the season with a 38-22 overall record, placing second in the GSAC with a 25-11 conference mark—its best record in six seasons.
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