Wilson Field of Dreams
All season long, the Davidson Wildcat baseball team slugged it out at Wilson Field – literally and figuratively.
Head Coach Dick Cooke – in his 27th year at Davidson – came into the 2017 season ready to build on the success of last year, where the ’Cats made it into the Atlantic 10 (A10) championship game.
The Wildcats won critical games in the homestretch of the season, including two out of three at the University of Massachusetts to close out the regular season.
On May 21 – fortuitously, between their final regular season game and the start of the A-10 Tournament in St. Louis – 10 players and a student manager earned their Davidson diplomas. In the midst of a remarkable baseball season, uniforms, cleats, bats and balls were replaced with caps and gowns. Davidson players are scholar-athletes, and their performance in the classroom is what mattered that Sunday morning on the front lawn of Chambers.
With the pomp and circumstance of graduation in the rearview mirror, Davidson headed to the double-elimination A-10 tournament in St. Louis. The 6th-seeded ’Cats won their first two games against St. Bonaventure and George Mason, but lost their next game, against the VCU Rams.
Playing elimination baseball, Davidson won its next game against the host team, Saint Louis Billikens. That victory meant the Wildcats would take on VCU again.
The outcome of the Saturday afternoon game was very different from game played just 24 hours earlier. Davidson downed the VCU Rams 8–4, forcing a second game to determine the A-10 champions. The momentum stayed with the ’Cats, and they dismantled the Rams with a 11–4 win for the championship trophy.
The win was the first A10 tournament championship for any Davidson team, and most significantly – it marked the first championship victory in the 115-year history of the Davidson baseball program.
On Monday May 29, the Wildcats were joined by dozens of fans and family members at the Brickhouse Tavern to watch the NCAA Selection show. A roar went out through Brickhouse when the ’Cats learned that they would be heading to UNC Chapel Hill Regional, where they were victorious, beating the highly favored Tarheels not once, but twice.
The victories earned Davidson a trip to the Super Regionals in College Station, Texas, to face the Texas A&M Aggies in a best of three weekend series. While some fans were able to make the trip, more than 600 alumni had gathered on the Davidson College campus for reunion weekend, where college staff set up televisions for alumni to cheer on their Wildcats. And while Davidson came up short against the Aggies, they earned the respect of fans near and far – with many making the comparison to the 2008 Men’s Basketball team’s run to the Elite Eight. Still others have called the baseball achievement even more impressive, given the fact that the team has only the equivalent to three scholarship players.
A couple of days after returning to Davidson, Coach Cooke sent out a letter to Wildcat Baseball fans near and far. He closed the email with the following: “All of this prompts me to say, simply, thank you. Thank you for taking the ride with us, thank you for living and dying with every pitch and, most importantly, thank you for being there – in person, electronically and every other way possible. I’m sure we felt you there.”
Classy note Coach – thank you for an incredible season!
Editor’s Note: As of the writing of this article, two Wildcat 2017 graduates have been drafted or signed with professional baseball teams. Will Robertson was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles, and Durin O’Linger signed with the Boston Red Sox. Robertson graduated Cum Laude with a degree in Economics. O’Linger was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate, who earned his degree in Chemistry Magna Cum Laude.
Jane Campbell, U.S. Navy, Capt. ret., grew up in a military family and lived around the globe before graduating from Davidson College with a degree in Political Science. During a 25-year career in the Navy, she served aboard three different ships and held a variety of shore-based assignments. She was stationed on the East and West coasts, as well as overseas. She had tours at the Pentagon and the White House, and volunteered for a deployment to Afghanistan. She moved to Davidson in late 2014 and has become involved in a variety of volunteer activities with college, church, and community. She serves as a photographer and Sports Editor for News of Davidson.