The South Carolina Club Baseball team is finding ways to adapt to COVID-19 challenges after its 2019-2020 season ended prematurely last spring.
The team was ranked No. 7 by the National Club Baseball Association last season and was preparing to compete for a National Championship when its spring season was cut short due to the emerging pandemic.
"Everything that we had going on, all the momentum, and just having that taken away, it was hard, especially for the seniors last year," said third year criminolagy student and left-fielder Drew Carroll.
They finished the season with eight wins and only one loss with series wins over rivals Georgia and Clemson.
"The most memorable moment was sweeping Clemson but also walking them off twice," said fourth year graphic design student and catcher Micheal Kakos.
Many aspects of the club look different this year, both on and off the field. The difficulties started early on after the field the team practiced on became unavailable due to the pandemic.
Patrick DeMarre, club president and third year broadcast jounalism student, said he remembers spending an entire week over the summer looking at potential fields.
"I spent every single day just driving around the Columbia area to each high school trying to scout fields, see what they looked like, see what fields we would enjoy playing at," DeMarre said.
DeMarre said he only heard back from a couple of baseball facilities out of the thirty to forty that they contacted.
Practices also included new protocols, such as temperature checks, wearing masks during practice and social distancing, according to DeMarre.
The team had to make sacrifices when it came to planning social events and getting the team together off the field. Alex Lamendola, club vice-president, fourth year operations and supply chain management student, and center-fielder, said that while it has been hard not being able to get everyone together, getting to play this year will be worth it.
“We’re really trying to just play baseball, and if that means giving up some of the things we used to do, I think playing baseball is really going to be worth giving up some of those things we used to do as a team," said Lamendola.
The team has built strong bonds with each other that some members say feels like family.
Minjae Kim is a third year real estate and marketing student who is pitcher from South Korea. Kim tried out for the team as a freshman but didn't make it onto the roster until his sophomore year last year. Kim said his teammates feel like brothers to him and that being on the team has made him very happy.
After getting sent back to South Korea due to the pandemic, the team kept in contact with Kim and checked up on him frequently.
Despite the adversity the team has faced throughout the year, they have still found ways to have fun at practices and keep the team positive through it all. Over Halloween weekend, the team dressed up in costumes to play scrimmages.
"It felt like we were kids out there again, just playing, having the time of our lives," DeMarre said. "Even though we weren’t playing against another school, we were just playing against each other."
While a spring season is still up in the air for the Club Baseball team, the team is still working towards its ultimate goal of playing for a National Championship this year.
"I think we have an even better chance at winning the title than we had last year," fourth year advertising student and middle-infielder EJ Mastronardi said.
Currently, its inability to host teams or travel due to rules put in place by the university have put their hopes of playing this year at risk. Club board members are currently working with the club organizers, the NCBA and the university to put in place enough COVID-19 protocols and precautions to allow them to put together a season.