by DONNY NADEAU, Saint Mary’s Sports Information director
The Saint Mary’s University (SMU) baseball team wasn’t about to write the final chapter in what has been a storybook season.
Johns Hopkins, however, had other ideas, as the Blue Jays ousted the Cardinals from post-season play with a 7-2 decision in an NCAA Regional Tournament elimination game on May 29 at Reynolds Field.
Lost in the heartbreaking moment, however, is the amazing ride this team has been on.
A ride that will not soon be forgotten — especially by the team’s 20 seniors, who played their last collegiate game in that 7-2 loss to Johns Hopkins.
“Thinking of this group and what they meant to this program makes it very emotional,” Head Coach Nick Winecke said. “We were fortunate enough to have a whole bunch of guys come back for a fifth year — to put their lives on hold — to make one final run.
“And then there’s our true seniors, an incredibly dedicated group,” Winecke added. “I really struggle to put into words how much we as a coaching staff appreciate them and the time and effort that they have put into this program.
“From my viewpoint, I’m excited because now the relationship changes from mentor and coach, to friend and someone they can rely on.”
How good was the year? The Cardinals racked up:
• A single-season program-record 30 wins and a school-record 46 games played.
• The team’s first NCAA Regional appearance in 28 years — and just the second national tournament berth in program history.
• School records with 88 stolen bases, 85 doubles, 367 innings pitched, and 285 strikeouts.
But wait, there’s more.
Individually, Will Matthews smacked a single-season program-record 18 doubles — the 18th coming on an RBI two-bagger against the Blue Jays Sunday — while Tyler O’Brien shattered the school record, being hit by a pitch 17 times this season, and reliever Kody Kiel ended the year equaling the program record with a 0.00 ERA.
Their names are etched all over the Cardinal single-season and career record books — the impact this group of seniors has had on the program means way more than their names on a stat sheet.
“I told the guys after the game, winning the MIAC Tournament and playing in the regional is great, but don’t let it be the biggest accomplishment in your lives,” Winecke said. “They have all written their names in record books at Saint Mary’s, but that’s just a start. Go out and create great things in life – be a great husband, a great father, and continue to be a great person.
“We have four expectations in our program — be a good person, be a great teammate, care and invest the time and energy, and have a great work ethic. That’s how we judge success — and with this group, you can check all those boxes a thousand times over.”
And you can rest assured that the 2021 season is one chapter that will not soon be forgotten.