photo credit: Lyon College
In baseball, a hitter who bats .300 is considered good, maybe even great at the sport. That same hitter will fail 7/10 times in order to achieve this feat. The Lyon College Scots baseball team doubles that, with a winning percentage of .662 since head coach Tony Roepcke took over in 2010. The team has won 325 games, compared to only 215 loses over that same period. Four of the last five years, the baseball team has gone on to play in the national tournament, joining just 50 other teams nationwide each year to compete for a national championship. Since Tony Roepcke took over as head coach, the baseball program has won more games than any other sport on Lyon’s campus. This success is due in no small part to the coaching staff of Tony Roepcke, Gary Sevier, and Jacob Huffman.
Coach Roep, as he’s known, played baseball at Lyon in the early 2000’s before joining the coaching staff and eventually taking over as head coach. As noted previously, he’s had much success as a head coach, but he says that’s not the reason he coaches. “If we’re not teaching life lessons, what are we doing?” Coach Roep explained. “I don’t do it to win ball games, I do it to make better people.” Coach Roep, alongside coaches Huffman and Sevier, all agreed that the most rewarding part of coaching was the relationships they built with their players. Their goal is to build not just a ball club, but a cohesive team with a sense of family to it.
The coaches are all passionate about the game and their players as well. “Yes, I’m passionate about it. I did [this job] for free for a few years; you don’t do that if you aren’t passionate about it,” said recruiting coordinator and assistant coach Gary Sevier. Similarly, pitching coach Jacob Huffman replied, “I thoroughly enjoy [this job], and I hope I show that enough.” Coach Huffman is in his first year as pitching coach, whereas Coach Sevier is in his 11th year. To the players, having coaches that care about them about people as well as athletes matters. Morris Watson, a 5th year senior at Lyon, said, “They’ve guided me and helped shape me into the person I am today, versus when I came in as an 18-year-old. The biggest challenge is living up to their standards both on and off the field, but it’s helped me grow as a person into an adult.”
Recruiting, according to Coach Roep, remains the biggest challenge he faces. “We’re particular about the type of young men we bring in… [they have to be] talented and high character people,” Coach Roep said. Coach Sevier also noted that one of the hardest parts about recruiting is getting the players to come visit campus at such a small school in a small town. According to Coach Sevier recruiting isn’t hard, it just takes a lot of time, and is one of his favorite parts about his job. The baseball team currently carries 58 players, according to its online roster at lyonscots.com, making it the second-largest team on Lyon’s campus, behind the football team.
The baseball program faces more challenges than simply winning baseball games and recruiting good athletes. In recent years, the sport of baseball has become more analytically driven, and its technology is evolving. Coach Huffman, the newest and youngest of the trio of coaches, spoke to the difficulties of trying to get more analytical at a small college level, saying, “The lack of data, technology, having a small staff, all make it difficult to apply theories that work at a professional level.” New devices such as Rapsodo systems and high-speed cameras present a unique challenge to the coaching staff to not only keep the program’s technology up to date, but also to learn how to coach with this new technology as well. Coach Roep believes that because of his age, the technology presents more of a challenge to him than to younger coaches and players, but he tries to embrace it in order to provide his players with a better chance to win.
However, even with the sport changing, Lyon’s coaches still believe in the fundamentals of the game and the program. Coach Roep said that, “This program was built on fundamentals, and we’re going to hold fast to them.” Coach Sevier agreed, saying that the environment of a small school, fundraising for the program, and the strategies that he coaches with have all remained consistent throughout his tenure as assistant.
For the players, having consistency among the coaching staff, on and off the field, is a major key to enjoying their experiences as baseball players at Lyon. Morris Watson said that he chose to return for a fifth year of school because he enjoyed the experiences with his teammates and coaches, and that the relationships he’s built here will be what he misses most when he graduates. Other players agreed with Mr. Watson, saying, “It’s easy to believe in a program where you know the coaches care about you as a person, not just as a player. It makes us want to play better for them, and for our teammates.”
The baseball team takes the field again this spring, returning 34 of its 58 players, 14 of which are seniors. Their season will begin in February at Oklahoma Wesleyan College in Bartlesville, OK. The Scots look to continue their winning ways, coming off a 40-win season in 2018-19. Be sure to come to Scots Field this spring and support the baseball team, and bring your dogs to bark at the park at home games!
photo credit: Lyon College