Baseball coach prompts team toward a clean start

Biola’s new head baseball coach, Jay Sullenger, brings a lot of positive changes to the team.

Grace Hansen, Writer

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As last year’s baseball season came to a close, Biola graduate, Nick Turner — the starting pitcher and co-captain for the team last year — witnessed four of his teammates get kicked off the team and saw his final season fall apart.

A TROUBLESOME PAST

Turner’s love for the game was not doused by the drama off the field, but he was frustrated that the team wasn’t able to coordinate like he wanted them to.

“We fell off the wagon … [there was] lots of spiritual warfare. We had a lot of disagreements between underclassmen and upperclassmen," Turner said.

In the ending months of the season, the team saw a different player get kicked off the team for almost three consecutive weeks. As a result, the team had trouble communicating and seeing eye-to-eye, according to Turner. The students were accused and found guilty of throwing immoral parties at their private residences off-campus. According to coach Verhouven, he was in the dark about the issue until Campus Safety notified him.

“John Verhoeven handled it the best way he could. His hands were tied,” Turner said.

He went on to state that he did not blame Verhoeven for the team’s inability to remain cohesive or for having to pull some of the players off of the team. Instead, he thought that Verhoeven disciplined the players while trying to mentally prepare some of the young players who had just begun their college career.

Now a student at Talbot, former Eagle's pitcher Nick Turner recalls the lack of cohesion in the team last year. | Olivia Blinn/THE CHIMES [file photo]

Difficult decisions

Former Biola head coach Verhoeven faced the difficult task of having to let some of his players go. He had to personally talk to each of these players and break ties with them.

“The only thing I was made aware of was … there was some partying going on … I don’t know what students do at their own residences,” Verhouven said.

After last season, Coach Verhouven decided to resign from his post and seek a different coaching position.

“I’ve been at Biola for 16 years, and I felt like it was time for a change,” Verhoeven said.

In January, before the season even began and the suspensions unfolded, he had decided that the upcoming season would be his last as head coach. He is now the pitching coach for Azusa Pacific University.

“That’s how I got my start as a coach. For me it’s like going back to baseball, where I don’t have to deal with grades and discipline and all the scheduling and all the paperwork [head] coaches have to do,” Verhoeven explained.

Jay Sullenger is Biola baseball's ninth head coach in its 63-year history. Sullenger's goal is to reposition the focus off themselves and onto God. | Courtesy / JMUSports.com

A new pitch

Coach Verhoeven left behind a legacy, according to Biola’s new head coach, Jay Sullenger. He is here to start another one. As a fresh addition to the staff, Sullenger is aware of the team’s history and is helping the boys to learn from the past. He said that he is thankful that there is room for the team to grow together this season.

The desire of the team, Sullenger said, is not to rebuild its reputation but to reposition the focus off themselves and onto God. This season, the team has been meditating on the verse Ezekiel 36:23 and seeking to allow God’s holiness to shine through the team.

“We have talked about growing in our knowledge of the gospel and really seeking to put Christ at the center of all we do,” Sullenger said.

Sullenger sees last season as an opportunity to learn from and draw closer to God. He believes that teams always have challenges to face, and the team is grateful that as believers, they do not have to endure them alone.

In regard to the upcoming season, Sullenger said that the team is working hard and getting to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Sullenger is thankful for the opportunity to follow Verhoeven and build on the legacy he left behind, he said. The team is excited for the upcoming season and is looking forward to what God has in store for them, according to Sullenger.

“If things continue as they have started, we will play some good baseball this season,” Sullenger said.

 

Sophomore Sam Thorne hopes for a year of close-knit relationships on the baseball team. | Olivia Blinn/THE CHIMES

Looking to the Future

Sophomore catcher for the team, Sam Thorne, has high hopes for this season. With a more structured strategy, he believes the team works together really well.

“We’ve done some team building stuff, which wasn’t really a huge priority last year, so I definitely think we’re a closer-knit group this year,” Thorne said.

As far as last season’s struggles are concerned, Thorne says that the team has discussed the issue, but has decided to leave it in the past and not worry about it this season.

“It’s just kind of one of those things that happen, and then you move on,”  Thorne said.

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