Entering the 2021-22 school year as back-to-back Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA) champions, the Humber Hawks men’s baseball team have high expectations again this season.
Unable to play at all in the 2020-21 school year as COVID-19 restrictions cancelled OCAA competitions, the Hawks are back, and off to a strong start. Starting the season 6-0 before dropping both games of a doubleheader on Saturday, the Hawks have come out of the gate at a blistering pace.
Through eight games — plus an incomplete game against George Brown that was postponed in the seventh inning — they’ve already scored over 100 runs.
It’s a pace which head coach Troy Black admits will be difficult to keep up over a full season, but is a sign of promising things to come.
“It’s been good, obviously,” he said with a laugh. “The biggest thing that I stress to the guys, though, is to commit to the moment, and make sure they’re not taking it for granted, and thinking they can show up and just put up numbers like that. They put up numbers like that because of the work that they put in, because of the focus they bring to each at-bat and each individual pitch.
“Obviously that pace is a little ridiculous, and there’s a little bit of luck that’s involved with that too, especially in baseball, but in order to keep that success going, we’ve got to bring that same energy and same fire, and not get complacent.”
Black is in his first year at the helm of the team, after initially being named head coach in January 2020. After a lot of waiting, getting the green light to play this year was more than welcome news after the year they’ve been through.
“It started off with a lot of bad news over and over again,” Black said of last year’s cancellations. “Some recruits came in, some guys came in and left as they finished one-year programs and decided they wanted to get out of school and didn’t know what things were going to look like.
“There was a lot of uncertainty, but we kept plugging away. When we had last season cancelled, we at least had the faith that this season would be going, so we just kept planning ahead and trying to make it work for this year. Luckily with the league and the school and everybody coming together and being able to work super hard to get it done, we’re able to do it.”
The former Baltimore Orioles minor leaguer says that the team has come into this season with a strong mindset after missing so much time.
“Guys aren’t taking innings for granted, guys aren’t taking at-bats for granted after what we’ve had happen to us last year,” Black said. “The energy is always there, even in practice doing the more mundane stuff.”
“Guys are just really happy to be out there, and I’m happy to be out there with them. It’s a good culture and energy to be around right now.”
There have been several standout players on the team thus far, none more than infielder Aidan Murphy. Murphy, a third-year student, was batting over .700 through five games, cooling down a bit to a modest .480 since, and leads the team in RBI (17) and home runs (3).
He was one of the standouts in an opening week that saw the Hawks jump out to an early 6-0 record, and score an unimaginable 31 runs in a single game, a 31-4 domination of Centennial on Sept. 24.
For his efforts, he was named one of Humber’s Athletes of the Week for that week.
“That’s about as impressive a start to the season as you could imagine,” Black said with an audible grin. “If you had told me that at the beginning of the year I would’ve laughed, but what can I say?
“He’s hitting the ball, but he’s not just drilling balls through the infield and getting lucky — everything he swings at it seems like he’s squaring up. The numbers may come back down to earth a little bit, but [it’s important to keep] his approach similar to where it is so he can continue to have more success.”
While there won’t be a national championship this year, the Hawks still have some high expectations.
“This year there is no national championship, because of Covid and travel, and the planning,” said Black, adding that the OCAA crown is their goal for this season.
“I think anytime you lead a program at this school, where there’s such a rich culture of success — whether it be baseball, volleyball, basketball, whatever sport — the expectation is to come out on top and win that last game of the season. That’s definitely where we want to be at the end of the year.”