Expectations high for BEHS baseball team as new season begins
Mike Darnell’s mood went from celebratory to solemn after watching his Bishop England High School baseball team win the Class AAA state championship with a victory over Seneca last May.
The team celebrated, but Darnell was brought back to reality, perhaps back to the future, when he was asked the inevitable: “What will be the prevailing mood of the Bishop baseball family heading into the 2018 season?”
Said Darnell: “Expectations will be very high.”
Eight months later, expectations are great at BE, where Darnell doesn’t expect success. He demands it. The Bishops are ranked No. 1 in the state coaches association’s preseason poll of Class AAA baseball teams.
“I am not sure there is any added pressure,” said Darnell, whose team overcame a 5-6 record early in the season to post a 24-9 record. “We feel like we are going to be held to the standard of the program every year. That creates pressure from year to year.”
“We believe we are ‘hunted’ every year,” he continued. “Our program has made it so there are expectations of being at the top every year.”
Expectations are high because most of the experienced players return with the exception of Shawn Runey and Riley Carrington, both lost to graduation in 2017.
The “Big 3” returns: Leo Albano, the three-sport star; along with Citadel-bound Will Bastian and junior Geoffrey Gilbert, who has already committed to play for the Clemson Tigers.
They had key roles in last year’s state title, the eighth in school history. They will showcase their talents in the IPBC Classic, which features the best teams in the state, regardless of classification and is contested in Georgetown.
Darnell called Albano, “Mr. Everything.” He did everything for us. He did a great job as our No. 3 hitter and will be expected to do it again this year.”
Darnell said Bastian is always dirty, presenting a big laundry challenge. “He’s always hustling and getting dirty, exactly what you want from a catcher. He will determine how our season goes.”
Gilbert is the most talented player on the team. “If he can stay within himself he will be our No. 1 on the mound,” Darnell said.
Darnell is 263-109 in his career at the Daniel Island-based school and has guided the Bishops to nine of their state titles. He knows playing tough competition can cause the team to take its lumps early in the year, but blossom into a contender by mid-April.
“The expectations inside the program are very high. Each year brings its own set of circumstances to deal with,” Darnell said. “Having experience and battling through as many injuries as we did last year gave us the opportunity to play a lot of guys who might not have had the chance without that experience.”
Darnell predicts Seneca, Gilbert, Waccamaw and Aynor will be the top challengers in Class AAA. He knows what it will take to win yet another title.
“We have to play hard every single day as a team,” Darnell said “We have to leave egos behind and be unselfish. If we play as a team and do our job we will have a chance.”
The Bishops take on Stratford in their first official game of the new season on Feb. 5.