With one season and an SIAC baseball championship under his belt, Albany State coach Daniel Stockdale said the team is on a mission to build on last year’s success and make some noise at a national level.
All-American Terence Worthy, who will playing first base this year, echoed those sentiments and said the Rams won’t let anything stand in their way.
“I feel great,” Worthy said. “I feel like we’re ready. I feel like these practices, running in the rain, running in the cold, working out in weather no other team works out in is going to prepare us. Nothing’s going to stop us. We’re on a mission and we’re ready for it.”
At this point last season, Stockdale was trying to pick up the pieces after Kenyan Conner departed for Benedict. Stockdale was trying to get acclimated to the school and the city all while trying to find a place to stay. He said there was an adjustment period at first.
“Last year was an experience in its own self,” he said. “Just learning the players, understanding Albany State and how things are done in the departments fiscally, operations, management, just having to learn all of those things was a challenge initially.”
As a result of Stockdale having to hit the ground running, the Rams stumbled out of the gate with a 1-17 record. He said that the key was winning over the seniors at the time and getting the team to adopt a winning mentality despite their struggles.
From there, they improved and finished 12-5 in conference play and won the program’s first tournament title since 2010. Worthy said once they started seeing the results, it was easy to get on board.
“When coach came it was a new coach and nobody knew what to expect,” he said. “He just brought in this mentality that we’re going to win. Like there’s no doubt about it, we’re going to win. We’re going to win the championship and we’re going to keep going. So it’s just been about moving forward ever since he came.”
They bring that same mentality back this year along with seven players which includes Worthy, center fielder Reese McDaniel and junior catcher Johnathon Gallan. With Stockdale’s style fully implemented, they’re excited to get to work. He said they’ve already seen some early success after a strong showing in fall preseason games where six freshmen started.
“We had some success in the fall,” he said. “We played some top competition this fall, and we were able to prove that Albany State was a flagship program in southwest Georgia.”
This year, Stockdale said the Rams will rely on their defense as well as their strong run game. ASU was the number four team in the NCAA in stolen bases last year and this year he wants to improve that number all while playing small ball and leading in sacrifice bunts as well as moving runners over.
The Rams start season on Wednesday at Valdosta State. ASU will then travel to Lee University Feb. 6-7 before returning home to face Valdosta State again on Feb. 9.
Albany State has a challenging non-conference schedule which includes national perennial powers Columbus State, Armstrong Atlantic State, Florida Tech and the University of Tampa. Tampa won the NCAA Division II national championship in 2015 and is ranked as the preseason No. 1.
This is all before getting into conference play. Stockdale said the SIAC is getting stronger, adding teams like Springfield College out of Alabama. He added that Stillman and Tuskegee remain top-tier teams in the conference, as well as Miles and he said his team will have to stay focused on getting better in order to go farther.http://www.albanyherald.com/sports/albany-state-seeks-to-build-off-last-year-s-late/article_3e126dae-2de7-5fc5-bba9-f52a5a19cac3.html