Emory University’s baseball team is preparing for their first full season since the pandemic, as the 2020 season was cut short and the team only played 12 games last spring. This year, the Eagles have a full 40-game non-conference and University Athletic Association (UAA) season lined up. They currently have an 11-7 record. 

The road back to playing consistently has been a rocky one. The team found their stride in 2020, accumulating an 11-4 record before Emory shut down all varsity sports. Last year, the Eagles were hopeful that a full regular season would be possible, but being unable to practice in the fall and starting the season late greatly reduced the amount of games they could play. They ended spring 2021 with a 7-5 record.

Due to the unorthodox past few years, the team’s typical training schedule is new to players who have not yet experienced a full college baseball season. Despite the learning curve for younger players, senior infielder Robby Wacker described the team as being excited to demonstrate their skills in games.

“For a lot of people, it is the first time having a full fall of practices, 40 hours a week, and then spring [games] and the whole preparation,” Wacker said. “I am just really excited to get back to normal as best we can and have that chance to show [the Emory community] what we can do.”

Junior pitcher Aaron Mishoulam said the team is especially motivated to work hard and win their UAA conference this season given how irregular the last couple years have been.

“Our team’s goals are definitely to win our conference and get a chance to make a playoff appearance since we haven’t been able to do that for the past few years.” Mishoulam said.

Despite the hurdles faced due to the pandemic, the team has trained hard throughout the year. They have spent a lot of time focusing on their strength and weight training to increase their endurance and overall athleticism. Efforts are currently centered on practicing plays, reviewing game details and getting used to being back on the field.

Wacker said that, more than anything, he and his teammates do not want their excitement at finally being able to play to distract them from playing at a high level.

“For me, I just want to leave the season with no regrets.” Wacker said. “The biggest thing is just to win games and leave every game knowing there is nothing left out there.”

The team has been living up to Wacker’s high expectations so far. Wacker is putting up the best numbers of his career, having recorded a hit in every game thus far and a .355 batting average, while junior outfielder Henry Pelinski is not far behind at .333. On the mound, Mishoulam boasts a 2.16 earned runs average (ERA), while junior pitcher Mike Golob has posted an ERA of 2.25.

While the team is optimistic, no one is immune to bad days and rough games. Wacker explained that relying on their practice and team experiences help prepare them mentally when entering tough games.

“It’s always tough because some days you’ll hit the ball well and it just goes to people, and sometimes you don’t have the number in the hit column,” Wacker said. “I just try to show up everyday . . . Beyond that, it is just about having fun, because you can put all the pressure on yourself in the world, but in the end what’s going to happen is going to happen.”

Similarly, Mishoulam said that he trusts his preparation to relieve his anxiety and calm his nerves.

“I know we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, and that’s something we kind of want to stray away from,” Mishoulam said. “Win or lose, it just comes down to trusting the preparation, because we have done so much in the off-season.”

The team not only works hard, but promotes a positive team culture, which Wacker said is part of what makes them so cohesive and successful.

“We’re all really good friends,” Wacker said. “From the oldest senior to the youngest freshman, everyone could go and get lunch with someone because they know each other well enough.”

Both Mishoulam and Wacker praised the senior class for being great teammates and role models who have contributed greatly to the team’s success so far this season, displaying leadership qualities which Mishoulam said he hopes to emulate. 

“I’d say an individual goal is to be able to help the team on and off the field as a leader,” Mishoulam said. “I want to be a good influence and mentor to some of the younger guys, especially if I can’t always be on the mound pitching. I just want to be a good role model.”

While the entire team is driven to have an amazing season, Wacker said that he and his fellow seniors especially feel the pressure to do well in their final year wearing an Emory uniform.

“The seniors, as a whole, really feel this is our last chance,” Wacker said. “We want to do this our way. We want to win and make up for the past two years.” 

The Eagles take on Oglethorpe University (Ga.) in a triple-header on Mar. 19 to 20. The Eagles kick off UAA play with a four-game home series against Case Western Reserve University (Ohio) on Mar. 25 to 27. 

Emory University baseball players supporting their teammates at the end of an inning. (Courtesy of Michael Mariam)