NORFOLK, VA (WTKR)- Old Dominion treated fans to an historic 2021 campaign. In less than two weeks, we'll begin to learn what 2022 will hold.
The Monarchs open their schedule on February 18 at Bud Metheny Baseball Stadium, beginning a three-game series with Iona. Chris Finwood and company are coming off a season in which they finished 44-16, won their first Conference USA championship, earned a top seed in an NCAA Regional and came within one victory of advancing to a Super Regional.
"This year's team, although it's a lot of the same players, we've got to start out 0-0," Finwood said. "We don't start out 44-16. Last year's team earned that, so this year's team has got to make their own path and their own journey and that will start on [February] 18."
While 2021 may be in the rear-view mirror, this season's Monarchs can certainly benefit from some of the experiences. A veteran group returns for ODU, featuring a good number of players who have seen pressure situations on some of college baseball's biggest stages.
"We've got kids who have played an awful lot of college baseball," Finwood noted. "It's a veteran team, line-up, so you'd think that when guys get in certain situations, they've been there before. It's not new to them. They understand how to win."
The Monarchs begin their campaign with 15 of their first 16 games at home, giving fans plenty of early chances to get a look at the team in action. After the preseason grind of facing each other, the players are eager to hit the field and face a team in a different jersey beginning next Friday.
"I think we're all really excited," said senior shortstop Tommy Bell. "I know the fans are excited, [Finwood] is really excited to be back out here and so are we."
"Just seeing someone else in a different color jersey really makes a difference," added pitcher Jason Hartline. "We're really geared up."
While the Monarchs hope to put last year behind them in some forms, their success certainly has caught the attention of ODU's opponents. The silver and blue will have a target on their backs heading into 2022, but plan to keep viewing themselves as the hunters and underdogs, rather than the hunted favorites.
"I don't think we've ever been able to look at ourselves that way," Finwood pointed out. "We've always been the underdog and I think we're better when we feel that way. We've talked about that and a season like last year just makes people wake up. You're not going to be able to sneak up on anybody."
"We're always going to come out here and think the other team is really good," Bell added. "We're going to try our best to play the best brand of baseball that we can and I think that's the mindset that we take into every single game."
Next Friday's season opener against Iona gets going at 3:00 PM. Old Dominion opens Conference USA play at Middle Tennessee on March 18 and holds its first league home game on March 25, taking on Charlotte. Some other notable home games find the Monarchs welcoming Virginia on April 26 at Harbor Park and VCU visiting The Bud on May 10. Seven participants from the 2021 NCAA Tournament are on ODU's schedule.