Last season for the Spartan baseball team was a dream come true for the team. During the season, they went 36-24 overall and 14-10 in SoCon matchups. Then they concluded their season by beating Furman in 3 games in the conference championship to win the SoCon title.
The team ventured into the nationwide NCAA tournament feeling confident. They traveled to Clemson at the beginning of June to play against both the Tigers and St. John’s. The first game was close, with the margin being 5-4 with the Clemson Tigers on top. The blue and gold bounced back in the second game and grabbed a 3 to 1 victory against St. John’s to stay alive in the tournament. The third game was played against Clemson once more, which ultimately resulted in a loss of 3-6 and elimination from the tournament.
The UNCG baseball team will be losing five players as they transition into next season, infielders Jojo Underwood and Michael Goss, outfielders Ryan Sigmon and Ben Spitznagel, and pitcher Ben Kerner. Michael Goss and Ben Spitznagel discussed their past season and career with us.
When asked how all the success made Spitznagel feel, he said “Winning the SoCon was a huge deal for the team and for myself. We worked so hard and overcame so much throughout the year. This year was something that I will never forget” he said. “As for how Goss felt, he said “Winning the Southern Conference and playing in an NCAA Regional was a dream come true.”
When the season started, both Ben and Michael expressed some discouragement. Ben commented,
“At the beginning of the season, we struggled offensively, which we were not expecting. It was definitely a little discouraging at times, but I knew we would eventually turn it around.”
Michael thought that, “When the season began, we had one goal of winning the conference. We knew that we had the personnel on our team to do so and that was our mission. After several key injuries to some of our starters, people began to doubt us. However, we believed that as a team we could still win the conference.”
Obviously the team worked through those ups and downs, specifically the key injuries and unexpected offensive struggles. It really shows how much confidence the team had in one another, because they thought they could win the SoCon championship with their struggles and they did.
One of the most enjoyable things used to document a successful season is one’s stats. However, Ben did not think his lived up to expectations, which he expressed when asked about his own season.
“Personally, I did not think that I played my best baseball, and stats prove that” Ben said. “It was a frustrating and stressful season for me, but I think I played pretty well in our conference tournament (everyone did) and that’s really all that mattered.”
One can see that teamwork was more important to him than individual efforts and that attitude is what makes a team great. As for Michael, he commented that, “I do believe that I played great baseball in my final season. Of course there were some highs and lows along the way but that is what happens in the sport of baseball.”
Both men are passionate about the sport of baseball, but despite the challenges of continuing their games to the next level, both have confidence and faith in their abilities. Ben wants to “keep playing baseball as long as I can” while Michael seems to be going in a different direction as he expressed desire to “get into an online master’s program in Sport and Athletic Administration.
“My time at UNCG confirmed to me my true passion and love for the game of baseball and I would love to continue that drive as a collegiate head coach one day.”
Every athlete has their hodgepodge of supporters, which could comprise of family, friends, teammates and coaches. This is also true for both Ben and Michael, who had so much support through their careers. Ben was constantly supported and wanted to thank many people when he said, “I would like to thank all of my coaches from every school that I attended. They all gave me a chance, and that’s all I needed. I can’t thank them enough. I’d also like to thank my family and loved ones. They showed me support throughout my whole career, wherever I was, and I’ll forever be grateful for that. But lastly, I’d like to thank all of my teammates.”
As for Michael, he said “Looking back on my career, I would like to specifically thank my two parents for supporting me during my baseball career.”
Whatever happens in the 2018 campaign of the UNCG baseball season, the 2017 campaign proved to be significant in the school’s history with winning their first SoCon title. And a lot of that comes from the play and leadership of the five departing seniors who went out on top in their final years, ending a four year journey and beginning higher expectations for future Spartans teams in the upcoming years.