The Catawba Valley Community College baseball program enters its 2020 season with an extremely deep and talented team, but also with a new mindset that it hopes will carry it to new heights.
The Red Hawks are coming off a 2019 season that saw them go 33-21 overall and 15-8 in Region 10 play, but despite the winning record overall and in region play, Rozzelle did some self reflection on himself and the program.
“You’re going to look at last year’s record and you’re not going to walk away and feel like that was a bad year, but it wasn’t our best year, and it wasn’t my best year as a coach,” Rozzelle said. “I needed to figure out what I needed to do. That was through accountability and ownership.”
Through that self analysis, Rozzelle has emphasized with his players the creed of ownership — something he discovered while watching a video of former UFC fighter Daniel Cormier and his coaching style.
“As a high school wrestling coach, Cormier’s wrestlers walk out on to the mat with the soul purpose of getting their hand raised, but when that doesn’t happen, they have to directly relate that to something they did not do. That was very impactful and very powerful,” Rozzelle said. “If we go out and we fail, the ‘loser attitude’ and ‘loser mindset’ is that something else is to blame — the weather, the umpire, the coaching. That is an extremely average mindset, and we are going to get average results with it. We wanted to separate ourselves from that.”
Rozzelle gave his player’s one simple equation for the season — events plus responses equals outcomes.
It’s a formula for success that he wants to carry through the spring season.
“We want to have great attitude and mindset,” he said. “We are going to respond correctly to every situation, and even if we don’t, we are immediately going to take ownership of the fact that we could have handled it better. From the coaching staff down to the players, if we all can do it and hold each other accountable to that standard, I think we are going to like where we are at.”
Four sophomore captains will help to maintain that culture this season, including pitcher Andrew Patrick (Catawba) and Storm Mace (Ellenboro), outfielder Jackson Brown (Granite Falls) and infielder Ryan Healy (Waxhaw).
Rozzelle has been pleased with all four of his key leaders.
“With those four guys at the helm of your accountability and leadership, it makes my job a lot easier,” he said.
Returning for the Red Hawks is an All-Region performer in pitcher Blake Dockery, who tallied a 6-2 record and a microscopic 0.92 ERA last spring.
“He has the ability level that’s through the roof,” Rozzelle said of Dockery. “He sets the tone in that number one spot in terms of what the pitchers need to live up to from a results standpoint. He’s gone out, been through it and had tremendous success. He was first-team All-Region. I think he should have been an All-American last year just based on the numbers. It’s nice to have somebody that’s already come out and had success at the top of your rotation.”
Dockery was a part of a pitching staff that shattered the school record for strikeouts last spring with 563 punch outs.
Rozzelle expects the Red Hawks to be strong on the mound once again, and he credits that success to Associate Head Coach Kris Harvey, who works with the team’s pitchers.
“Watching Coach Harvey and what he’s been able to do with our staff over the last four or five years has been really, really nice,” Rozzelle said. “Those guys understand what their routine is. They take a pro-style mentality with their work. They understand what they have to do to be successful. Watching them figure out who they are and how they are going to have success has been really special and one of the things that I kind of separates us I believe from others. The proof is in the pudding. He just keeps churning out unbelievable numbers from a pitching staff standpoint.”
The Red Hawks enter the spring with a key characteristic they lacked last spring — depth.
“From an offensive standpoint, we have one, two or three guys at every spot that we 100% could run out there and would not feel bad about it at all,” Rozzelle said. “Last year, we were crushed by an injury bug early and had some extenuating family circumstances for some guys, who ended up having to leave. Now all of a sudden, you take five guys out of our lineup and everyone has to move up. It just made it really difficult. We had some guys that maybe that had to play last year right away and depend on who really needed another year. This year, that’s not the case. We’ve got guys who can swing it one through nine in the line up. We feel just as confident with the guys behind them swinging the bat. If we had to run them out there, we wouldn’t be upset at all.”
Despite that depth and talent, Rozzelle said things can change quickly based on injury and a change of mindset.
“Talent only gets you so far. We understand that,” he said. “We are very blessed with talent, but talent that isn’t committed to team goals and concepts and being the absolute best they can be as a group doesn’t mean a whole lot. I really do believe that this team has really bought in to those things. I believe that our nine guys that are going to run out there are really, really talented. I believe the nine guys behind those guys are really talented.”
Former Red Hawk standouts Chandler Jenkins and Randal Ortiz have returned to the program in assistant coaching roles, joining Harvey and returning assistant Connor Dailey on Rozzelle’s staff.
Rozzelle said all have of his assistants been helpful in maintaining the high expectations of the Red Hawks baseball program, especially Jenkins — the program’s National Player of the Year in 2017.
“Having guys wanting to come back is just an indication of what this place meant to them when they were here,” Rozzelle said. “With Coach Jenkins’ resumé, he could have chosen to start at a lot of places. I’m going to have to fight like crazy just to be able to have him come back. He’s made himself invaluable to our program in just a short amount of time. Coach Ortiz has a love and desire of Catawba Valley and what it provided for him. These guys wanting to come back is not anything to do with me or coach Harvey, but more importantly they want to give back to the program they helped build and create, but also pay it forward to the next generation.”
The Red Hawks play their first games of the 2020 season this weekend — a pair of doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday at Henkel-Alley Field against USC Union starting at 1 p.m.
Rozzelle believes all four games will be important as a tone-setter for the rest of his program’s 2020 spring campaign.
“If we put a cover over the scoreboard, how could we judge ourselves in playing the game? If we didn’t know the runs scored or the winner or loser, would we feel good about how we played coming out of that first weekend? We want to do that every weekend,” Rozzelle said. “That’s how you want to walk away from it. We want to set the tone from the beginning that this is how we are going to play, and we feel good about how we played after these four games.”