Baseball ushers in new era under Justin Duarte

Eagles are forced to adjust quickly to a new head of the program.

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Baseball ushers in new era under Justin Duarte

Photo by Marlena Lang/ THE CHIMES

Photo by Marlena Lang/ THE CHIMES

Photo by Marlena Lang/ THE CHIMES

Joel Ashor, Sports Editor

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(This story was originally published in print on Feb. 14, 2019).

A new season of baseball has arrived at Biola, and with it comes a major change in the program. Following the sudden resignation of former head coach Jay Sullenger, who coached the Eagles for five seasons, Biola must now transition to a new leader of the program. Justin Duarte was hired as interim head coach in early January of this year, and he will lead an experienced group in their second year of PacWest play.

SUDDEN CHANGE

Change can be tough, especially when a team hires a new head coach exactly one month before the start of the season. The transition period can go one of two ways. It can tear a team apart or it can bring it closer together than it ever was. In this case, those closest to the situation say it was the latter.

Although their first game ended in an 11-0 loss, the Eagles believe they will adjust to Coach Duarte, and the players have formed a tight-knit bond as a result of the sudden change.

“I think it’s really brought us closer together, in all the controversy and everything that’s been going on I’ve seen our team really mesh well and build chemistry throughout this,” said redshirt junior outfielder Andy Van Antwerp. “It’s easy for this to pull us apart as a team but I think we’ve really meshed together well.”

Senior outfielder Jerron Largusa praised his new coach for the surprisingly seamless transition.

“It’s gone smoother than I think we all expected, Duarte he’s done a good job, him and [assistant coach] Mark [Lindsay] coming in,” Largusa said.

SAME GOALS

The Eagles have gone through plenty of change, but according to redshirt sophomore infielder Cole Beemer, the team’s goals have remained the same and will be pursued no matter what.

“You can’t change what has happened in the past, you can only move forward. As a team and as an individual our goal has always been two things: to glorify God in everything we do on the baseball field and to win baseball games. Those two mentalities will never change,” Beemer said.

That smooth transition has been aided by strong leadership on the team among the upperclassmen, helping the Eagles through a tough stretch without a coach.

“I see myself being a leader and leading people in their faith and as men, and I want people to play the game the right way, and I want to teach that in the way that I do, leading by example,” Van Antwerp said.

NEW ROLE

During that span of uncertainty without a head coach, Beemer also saw many veterans step up and take a great amount of responsibility to keep the squad grounded.

“It places a huge role on us, I think the upperclassmen including myself have done a good job to decide where we’re gonna go as a team and what we’re gonna do,” Beemer said. “I would say the two aspects of brotherhood and community will be key, we just need to keep coming together as team. The best teams I’ve played with is where community is built. Community is built, not found.”

Duarte has ushered in a new chapter with the Biola baseball team, and says he has learned a lot through his brief time as head coach of the Eagles.

“They’ve received me really well, it’s been a good transition for me, obviously I’m learning a ton. The coaches are learning how to work with one another, we’re trying to learn to get to know the guys and learn how we wanna play and that’s gonna take some time,” Duarte said. “So far it’s been a good transition, and it’s a great group of guys. We love these guys in terms of their heart and we just gotta maintain a good process and not worry about the result in this part of the season.”