NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — For the first time in school history, Trevecca Nazarene is headed to the Division II College World Series. It’s an extra special accomplishment for a team that wasn’t sure it would ever have the opportunity to play again last spring.
It was last March when the Trojans arrived in North Carolina to play a full week of games when COVID-19 was just starting to take hold in the United States. A couple of days later the season was canceled.
“It was really tough because COVID was kind of ramping up when we got there, but we still thought we were going to play and everything, so we weren’t too worried about it,” Trevecca Nazarene pitcher Alex Clouthier said. “Then when we got there it exploded. That’s when the NBA started playing its final games and the next day it’s like everything shut down. We were supposed to play that day, but (head) coach (Ryan) Schamlz told us there were weather delays, but it was sunny out so we kind of knew something was up. Then he told us and we were heartbroken.”
The end of the season also seemed like the end of the careers for a large senior class. But last summer the NCAA decided to grant an extra year of eligibility to any athlete that wanted to come back to school.
Ten Trojans took the opportunity to return for a super senior season, and another opportunity to do something special together.
“We realized how quickly (baseball) can be taken away from us, so we just play so loose this year,” Clouthier said. “We really play for each other.”
But that wasn’t the only adversity this team has faced. In August, just before players were set to return to campus, Schmalz resigned. The school decided to promote assistant head coach Chase Sain.
Knowing all that his team had been through over the past several months, Sain had a simple message when he gathered his players for their first workout in the fall.
“When they all decided to come back and play an extra year, my goal was (that), ‘you guys are going to enjoy every second on this field, playing baseball with your teammates,” Sain said.
The fun was challenged at times. COVID-19 positive tests forced multiple disruptions to the program throughout the school year. Just a couple weeks ago the Trojans were forced to play the Great Midwest Athletic Conference tournament without 11 players due to contact tracing.
It didn’t matter. Trevecca stormed through the tournament at 4-0 to capture the league crown.
“These guys just do not give up. They do not quit,” Sain said. “They find ways to make it happen when it matters.”
In all this spring the Trojans have won 36 games and their first-ever regional title. A thrilling 11-9 victory over Davenport. courtesy of Braden Odom’s run-scoring triple that sparked a two-run eighth inning, and capped off Odom’s cycle.
That victory came just hours after Trevecca’s seven-game postseason winning streak was snapped at the hands of Davenport in game one of the afternoon.
“A lot of these guys have been here four-plus years. Some of them have been here six years,” said Drew Pearce, a redshirt junior pitcher. “ So they have so much invested in this program and really just don’t want this season to end. It’s awesome, just so exciting. At the beginning of the year, I knew we were going to be good, but I never would’ve dreamed we would make it to the World Series.”
Now Trevecca will meet no. 5 Tampa University Saturday at 1 p.m. in game one of the double-elimination College World Series in Cary, North Carolina. And the story comes full circle with another season-ending in the Tar Heel state.
Only this time the Trojans plan to change the ending from heartbreak to jubilation as they look to win the school’s first-ever national championship in any sport.
“It’s just crazy that’s where we ended (last year),” Clouthier said. “And where we’re hopefully going to end again with another dogpile.”