April 11, 2014

Davidson continues rolling during historic season

By Zach DiSchiano



Picked to finish last in the Southern Conference by the league’s coaches, the Davidson Wildcats are proving doubters wrong as they cruise through one of the greatest seasons in program history.


Last season, the Wildcats finished ninth in the conference standings, putting together a 12-18 SoCon record with only six nonconference victories. Now, Davidson (10-2, 20-9) is in position to bring home the program’s first-ever conference title.


“We’re doing the things we did well even better, and the things we weren’t great at, you know, we still have some room for improvement,” senior right-hander Michael Goldberg said. “When it comes to defense and putting the ball in play, there’s still holes, but they’re a lot smaller holes than they were last year.”


Winners of 18 of their past 22 games, the Wildcats already have eclipsed last season’s total number of wins by two – and there are still 19 more games left on the schedule.


The historic run this Wildcats team is on has players excited, Goldberg said, and the Davidson community is starting to take notice of the program’s hot start to the season.


“This year it’s been special,” he said. “We’re starting to see a lot more interest from alumni, people around campus will give us a wave whenever we walk by, whether they’re construction guys or professors or people working in the union. It’s kind of nice to see people taking an interest even more so than they have in the past, and to me, that’s been really helpful.”


The Wildcats are collectively batting .305, while boasting a respectable 4.07 team ERA. Davidson coach Dick Cooke (pictured above), who is in his 24th season with the team, said the drive to improve by his players is a big factor as to why this team seen this much success.


“Their work ethic and their approach is always unbelievable,” Cooke said. “I mean, it’s scary how hard they work and how focused they are.”


With seven returning starters in the field and all three weekend starting pitchers back, the Wildcats were able to bring a lot of experience into this season. Right-hander Danny Mooney, the team’s ace, has nearly cut his ERA in half since last year, dropping it from 4.71 to 2.79 with three wins at the halfway point of the season.


“I think part of the reason why I’m having success this year is my experience,” Mooney said. “Last year was my first full year as a starting pitcher, so having that under my belt, I think I’m a lot better equipped to handle this year.”


Another Wildcat pitcher who is enjoying a career-defining season is Goldberg, who has made 16 appearances in relief and possesses a team-best 1.83 ERA. Cooke said he is impressed with Goldberg’s composure and plans to continue using him in tight situations.


“I think he’s got a fearlessness to him that helps him go out in any type of situation,” Cooke said. “He knows that right now he’s going to be pitching in close games whether we’re ahead or behind.”


The seniors have not experienced a 20-win season before, but that does not mean they are content with what they have done this year, senior catcher Daniel Gerow said.


“With this winning attitude and this confidence, we’ve gotten this taste of victory,” he said. “So everyone wants to keep winning, so there’s not really like a concern with keeping people motivated. Every time we win, it’s adding more motivation to keep winning.”


While the team clearly has something special going, Cooke said it is important for his players to remain focused on the next game, not postseason goals. He instills in his players the poise to not get too excited after a big win or too down after a bad loss.


“To me, it’s important to be able to slow the game down and not create any type of a panic scenario where things suddenly start getting a little out of whack,” he said. “Players will certainly model what they’re seeing from their coach. If they see coaches panicking on the sideline or in the dugout because second and third with one out in the ninth with a one-run lead, they may tighten up a little bit.”


The Wildcats will look to stay loose and continue their winning habits this weekend against Samford in a SoCon conference showdown.


(photos courtesy of Davidson Media Relations)