Progression is always a thing that head coaches strive for within a program, and Link Jarrett has achieved that within his tenure as coach of UNCG’s baseball team. The baseball team has improved in each of the last three seasons, culminating in an impressive 38-21 record last campaign.
When asked about how the Spartans can build off of last years record and make the jump into the postseason, Coach Jarrett replies “It’s confidence. The guys, with this being our fifth year, these are our players. We recruited all of these guys, they went through the process, their families went through the process with us as a recruit and now they’re here and you have these guys that can fill certain roles. I think you’re seeing that now. They feel very confident, they have been through this before, we’ve been through tough environments before. They know going into this year what they’re capable of doing.”
“When you look into the schedule, we obviously have to be at our best right out of the gate, and this is as challenging an opening series as anyone in the country can have on the road. The confidence is there, the expectations are very high, the talent is good, now it’s about execution and staying healthy.”
The schedule that Jarrett was referring to starts with UNCG traveling to South Carolina to face the fourth ranked Gamecocks for a three game series, to convoying to Winston-Salem to take on Wake Forest the following Tuesday, ending with a weekend series hosting the Michigan State Spartans.
After taking a closer look into the schedule, Jarret states that “It gives us an opportunity to go into a place and have a team come to you that are considered regional caliber teams. South Carolina is one of the top three teams in the country when you really delve into the experience of their pitching staff and what they’ve been able to accomplish, those are the type of places where if you want to go into a super regional and win, that’s the type of environment that you have to be prepared for.”
“We also have to prepare for a Michigan State team that’s essentially returning their entire team, and it’s neat that we have an opportunity for them to come to UNCG and play on our campus and we are very excited about that. The RPI (Rating Percentage Index) benefit of playing those teams is great, but you have to play well and win to reap said benefits. The RPI is a great way to play your way into the postseason without winning your conference tournament by playing a high caliber of series multiple times. Later we also get to play at Ohio State and you get more credit for wins on the road as well, so if you can win a couple of games on the road and really build that RPI and perform at a high level, it really opens up a lot of doors for you at the end of the year.”
Looking past the initial challenge within the first week of the season, UNCG Baseball has a gracious 17 game home stand spanning almost a month. When asked about what teams the Spartans would most like to face, Coach Jarret responds by saying “We enjoy the NC State and Wake Forest games cause they have a sense of rivalry in them. We always play them in the middle of the week and those are fun games. The Mercer series is also a series we look forward to, as we took the series two years ago in Macon and they won the series last year in Greensboro. Sanford is always a tough series at the end of the season.”
Finally, the mentality of the team is important to Jarett, by him saying with emphasis “We have to go day in and day out saying that ‘every game is important’ because at the end of it all, they are. We beat the National Champions in Coastal Carolina last year and we lost to teams that we should have beaten on paper. You have to be ready to play every time you step on the field. More than anything our team has to realize that every time that scoreboard turns on and somebody else is in the other dugout, it’s very important that we are at our best.”