When Landon Powell’s playing days ended in 2013, he knew exactly what he wanted to do next in his life.
“Even when I was in high school, I thought whenever I’m done playing one day, I want to be a coach,” Powell said. “A lot of people set great examples for me and mentored me and helped me, and I’ve always thought that I wanted to pay it forward and do the same thing for the next generation.”
Powell, a catcher at South Carolina from 2000-2004, received his first head coaching offer at North Greenville in 2015. Powell said the baseball program was at its lowest point during that time.
“They’d only won eight games the year before. Their facility was below par. Their budgets were not good. Scholarship allotment was really small — only three and a half scholarships. There just wasn’t a whole lot to be excited about,” Powell said.
When Powell accepted the position, many of his friends and colleagues within baseball thought he couldn't turn the team around.
"I just remember thinking, 'People don't think you can win here,'" Powell said. "And that to me, that's a motivator. How cool would it be to go show people you can win here? Why take the easy road? Let's do something that no one believes you can do."
Now, eight years into his tenure, Powell has built the Crusaders into a powerhouse, winning 54 games in the 2022 season.
It all culminated in the team’s first-ever national championship after beating Point Loma in the Division II College World Series.
“If you would’ve told us at the beginning of the year we’d be here, probably would’ve been a little skeptical, but something clicked. We all got together, had a lot of fun and just everything clicked,” redshirt sophomore catcher Jake Gerardi said.
Above all, Powell credited the success to the belief his team showed throughout the season.
“It proves that your hard work and your determination and having a plan and believing in things that you can be rewarded for that,” Powell said. “We never stopped believing that, and we had players that bought into us and community and the university and a lot of people bought into what we thought we could do.”
Redshirt junior catcher John Michael Faile said the team bought into Powell’s vision of what North Greenville could do.
“We knew this team was special from the beginning, but you would’ve never thought that the road we took to get here would’ve been what it was,” Faile said. “This team has overcome so much adversity, has gone through so much that people don’t even know about. This is special. This is one that everybody here, I promise you, will remember for the rest of their life.”
The Crusaders’ historic playoff run caught the attention of many across South Carolina. In Columbia, Gamecock fans showed an outpour of support for Powell on social media. Powell said he’s proud to see the community root for North Greenville’s success.
“That’s been really cool, it means a lot. Obviously, my time in Columbia was special to me, and I still bleed garnet,” Powell said. “And so, whenever the folks there in the fan base and the people in the Midlands support what we’re doing up here, it feels really good.”
Less than three weeks after winning the championship, Powell has already turned his attention to next season.
“We’re not going to be complacent here. We’re happy and we're thrilled of what we just accomplished, but we’re not satisfied,” Powell said. “We want to win four or five of them or more. I mean, why not just keep doing it? It was a lot of fun.”