SEASON PREVIEW: New Coach, Same EMU Diamond Royals

(photos by Scott Eyre)
(photos by Scott Eyre)

The EMU Diamond Royals begin a new era with first year head coach Adam Posey at the helm, but the culture will stay the same. Looking to build off their success from last season, the Royals return six everyday players in the lineup and more than 200 innings on the mound that helped them earn an ODAC Tournament spot for the first time since 2015. This squad has the experience and poise to compete for a repeat postseason bid in a consistently tough conference.

Record in 2019: 16-23-1 (10-12 ODAC)
Coach: Adam Posey (1st season as head coach after 5 seasons as an assistant coach at EMU and 4 as a player)

Season opener in 2020:
- Three-game series at North Carolina Wesleyan on Feb. 8-9, starting with a single game at 1:00pm on Saturday followed by a 7-inning doubleheader Sunday at 11:00am.

Other season highlights:
- home opener against Southern Virginia on Saturday, Feb. 15
- back-to-back 7-inning doubleheaders at home against DeSales and Penn St.-Altoona on Feb. 22-23
- travel to Myrtle Beach, S.C. for their Spring Break trip to play five games in four days
- open up ODAC play at Ferrum on March 7
- stretch of six home conference games in a row at the end of March
- Rowdy Royals Game on April 1 at 4:00pm against rival Bridgewater
- celebrate Senior Recognition in their home finale against Virginia Wesleyan on Saturday, April 25


SID: How would you recap 2019 in a couple of sentences, and how does that play into your team for this spring?

AP:  It was a season of continued progress for the program. For this group, it was an opportunity to compete in the ODAC Tournament and see what the level of play is like at that stage. This year, the guys want to be back there, but also understand that last season has no bearing on this season and we still have work to do.

SID: Making the ODAC Tournament field as the eighth seed a year ago, what will it take for the Royals to get back to the postseason?

AP:  A commitment to the daily process of getting better and paying attention to detail. The pieces are here, and our talent level is strong, but we have to continue to remain focused throughout the year on the process and let the results take care of themselves.

SID:  Last year's senior class included nine solid "team" guys.  How will you replace them? 

AP:  Every year you work through guys moving on from the program and having a different makeup of the team. This year, we have worked on developing leadership throughout the four classes of players and it has helped fill some of the gaps from the departure of the guys last year.

SID:  Last year's team featured a lot of young players growing into their positions, that also means you have a lot of returning position experience this year.  What does that mean for your team?

AP:  It means that practices and drills have run smoother for the most part. We don't have to spend as much time teaching, we can spend more time flying around and repping things at practice. In game situations, you hope it means that the game becomes a little slower and simpler for guys that have been around it, and I hope it brings a sense of maturity and confidence as well.

SID:  Your pitching staff returns more than 200 innings of experience from last year.  What will this year's staff aim to achieve?

AP:  I think consistency is the big word throughout the team, but especially with our pitching staff. Again, can they be consistent in their day-to-day preparation and focus on the process that it takes to be a top-level pitching staff? That's what we are working towards. Everything else takes care of itself.

SID:  Who are your key returners and what roles do you expect them to play this year?

AP:  With so many guys returning, it's hard to single guys out. I think you'll see the regulars back out there that you've seen for the last two or three years. On the other hand, there are a few guys that I think you'll see in a little bigger role. Gage Riddick (Gates County, N.C./Gates County), Brendon Barrett (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes), and Daniel Hupart (Woodbridge, Va./C.D. Hylton) have all made strides on the mound while guys like Garrett Howard (Fredericksburg, Va./Courtland), Blake Schaar (Orange, Va./The Covenant School), Colin Jones (Chesterfield, Va./Clover Hill), and Noah Dahllof (Bear, Del./Red Lion) give us some much needed depth that we may have lacked in past years.

SID:  Tell me a bit about your incoming recruiting class.  First an over-arching comment on the group as a whole, and then mention a few individuals and what roles they might play in their first year?

AP:  We feel pretty confident with the class we were able to bring in. With so many returning players, we wanted to make sure we went out and found guys that fit our program and had room for development, especially on the mound. Tyler Bagent (Chesapeake, Va./Portsmouth Christian) is a freshman pitcher that has surfaced as a guy that will compete for time out of the bullpen this year. Nick Jenkins (Elkton, Va./East Rockingham) and Skylar Lacks (Randolph, Va./Randolph Henry) both also have the ability to impact us on the mound at some point.

SID:  What will the strengths of your team be this season?

AP:  Experience. We have a lot of guys who have a lot of at bats or innings pitched under their belt. That's where you hope to see a group come together and play pretty free and loose throughout the year because they know what to expect and how to handle themselves.

SID:  Overall general feeling of what 2020 will be for your team?

AP:  I think it's a year to continue to progress and move the program forward. We are working hard at building a program that can sustain success in the ODAC over time, and that comes from putting the right culture and processes in place. I think our group is as excited as I've seen them in a long time, and we just want to be able to sustain that energy over the course of the year so that we put ourselves in a good position when the tournament rolls around.