By Dan Libon
NORTON, MA – Even though Wheaton College’s baseball team didn’t win their first Div. III National Championship, they were still winners in the eyes of their fans.
Greeted by friends, family, and members of the Wheaton College community on Thursday, the Lyons received a hero’s welcome as they returned to campus with a police and fire escort.
The 15th Lyons baseball season concluded with a conference and regional crown, but not a World Series victory. Wheaton finished the tournament in second place for the second time in six seasons, as the Lyons lost to Marietta College in two back-to-back contests.
President Ronald Crutcher greeted the young men with some wise words once they returned to their home diamond, as well as commended all of their various accomplishments on and off the diamond, too.
“I just want to say to the members of the Wheaton baseball team how proud we all are of the way you represented us,” stated Crutcher. “I know you’ve all worked incredibly hard this year to accomplish what you’ve accomplished. I also know that you’re disappointed that you didn’t win the national championship but I want you to know [that] I’m incredibly proud of the way you’ve supported yourself. I’m incredibly proud of the skills that you’ve gained working as a team under the great leadership of coach [Eric] Podbelski.”
Crutcher also claimed that he tried to watch the game on his phone during a meeting of the NEWMAC presidents, but got caught after he was unable to mute the volume.
Eric Podbelski, who has been Wheaton’s skipper for all 15 seasons, was grateful by the support of the town and college community.
“I was overwhelmed while we were in Mansfield, Connecticut, and then Wisconsin with the amount of support [via] emails, [and] texts that we got probably from many of you that are here, but many others connected to Wheaton somehow that really seem to grab on to what his team was doing,” exclaimed Podbelski.
The Lyons earned three consecutive wins against St. Thomas, SUNY Cortland and Webster before falling to Marietta twice in the championship round.