Kevin Ross and Colin Dyer have seen Towson University Baseball at its lowest.
The fifth-year seniors are the only remaining Tigers players that can relay the program’s tale of disappointment, uncertainty and resurgence.
In 2013, Towson’s baseball program was unexpectedly canceled — along with men’s soccer — due to budgetary constraints.
The team was informed by the president of the university and the athletic director in a meeting, and was then left to make sense of — and cope with — the news.
Dyer and Ross (pictured above, left to right) had red-shirted that 2012-13 season as freshmen. They had four years of collegiate baseball eligibility ahead of them and, suddenly, their futures were in disarray.
“It was kind of a culture shock, I guess,” said Dyer, an Ellicott City resident and Howard High graduate. “You kind of have to take a step back and re-evaluate everything — if you’re going to stay, where you’re going to go, everything. It was a process I didn’t think I would have to go through again. It kind of was a big bummer at that point.”
Ross and Dyer each had conversations with Tigers’ head coach Mike Gottlieb about potentially transferring, but both wanted to remain at Towson, if possible.
Saving the program
After news of the program’s pending demise became public, the university’s baseball community and alumni network rallied, and began fighting to save the program. That group included Ross’ mother, who worked in the Department of Education and dealt with Title IX issues.
Eventually, the university overturned its initial decision, partially due to the public outcry. The baseball program was saved.
Ross will never forget when his mom broke the news to him.
“I guess she had gotten some inside word,” said Ross, a Silver Spring resident and Good Counsel High graduate. “And she just sent me a text when I was in study hall that night saying that we had been saved and to call her immediately if I could. I just kept showing (teammates) the text and being like, ‘Can you believe it? Can you believe it?’ We were all just ecstatic and couldn’t believe that we won the fight. We were just happy to have a next year.”
Gottlieb felt badly for his players throughout the uncertainty, and was pleased that most rode it out. Ultimately, the Tigers only lost two players from that 2013 roster: one due to a lack of playing time, and the other because of injury, according to Gottlieb.
In the season following that off-field drama, Towson recorded its only non-losing, overall record so far in the 2010s at 30-30. Improbably, the Tigers went on a postseason run to win the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament championship and clinch a spot in the College World Series.
That season cemented the team’s unbreakable bond — and left an indelible impression on Ross and Dyer. Ross called it the coolest thing he’s ever experienced.
“That was a pretty monumental moment for the program, for the kids on it, for the coaches, everybody involved,” Dyer said. “It kind of just showed that we were brought closer together as a team at a time of adversity. We overcame some pretty serious obstacles.”
As the duo became upperclassmen and leaders, that experience increased in importance. Ross said that younger players often ask him about what happened, and he always shares the stories.
“I think, me and Colin both, we’ve taken a lot from it in terms of leadership and how to act toward younger kids,” Ross said. “Because we look at the seniors from that year and how they treated us when the crisis was going on, and I think that’s a huge way of how we decided to treat (the current underclassmen).”
Gottlieb also has seen both players progress on the field throughout their careers. Ross, a right-hander, overcame injuries and other struggles to become Towson’s top starting pitcher this season. In 11 starts, Ross is 1-5 with a 4.60 ERA for the Tigers (19-29), but Gottlieb said Ross has pitched better than his stats indicate.
“Kevin was a guy who we thought had a chance to be a pretty good pitcher, and I would say he’s become a pretty good pitcher,” Gottlieb said.
Listed as an outfielder, Dyer has built up his strength and shown his versatility this season. The Ellicott City native and Howard High graduate is batting .203 with two home runs and 19 RBIs, and is one of the club’s most reliable fielders with a .980 fielding percentage and four errors.
“Colin is a little different,” Gottlieb said. “He was a guy that, early on, we weren’t sure what we were getting, even though we told him he had a place in the program. Early on, it was obvious he needed some work. But, at the end of the day, you look back on five years with Colin — he’s played first base, he’s played second base, he’s played third base, he’s played right field, he pitched an inning or two this year. He’s a pretty athletic guy once you get to see him on an everyday basis.”
Both Ross and Dyer have no regrets with the way they handled the situation from their freshman year. They were able to experience five seasons at Towson, something that didn’t seem possible in 2013.
“I threw all my eggs in one basket to come to Towson, and I was kind of hoping that it would all work out in the end,” Dyer said. “I was happy at Towson. I didn’t want anything to change that. I was kind of crossing my fingers, I guess, during the whole situation and it ended up working out.”
BaltimoreBaseball.com’s Top Performers of the Week
(Compiled by Harrison Swartz)
Zach Mills, LHP, University of Maryland Eastern Shore
Soph./ Parksley, Va./Arcadia HS
Mills picked up his third win of the season Sunday against Norfolk State University. The Hawks won, 3-2, in a seven-inning contest against the Spartans. The 5-foot-9, 175-pound starter went the distance and struck out eight batters. He is now 3-4 on the season.
Ryan Orgielewicz, C, Johns Hopkins University
Sr./Larchmont, N.Y./Mamaroneck HS
Orgielewicz was named MVP of the Centennial Conference tournament Sunday. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound senior recorded five hits, including a home run, helping the Jays to a tournament sweep. He leads the team and conference in home runs (10) and RBIs (45).
Brian Shaffer, RHP, University of Maryland
Jr./Pylesville, Md./North Harford HS
Shaffer picked up his sixth win of the season Friday against the University of Illinois. He threw eight innings, struck out eight and allowed two earned runs in a 9-4 victory. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound righty is now 6-2 with an impressive 1.78 ERA.
Moments worth mentioning
Gavin Sheets (Gilman) was named ACC Player of the Week after he hit .364 for Wake Forest University against Boston College last weekend. On Friday, he hit two home runs and drove in six. It was his third multi-homer performance this season. … Johns Hopkins took home the Centennial Conference title last weekend by defeating Ursinus (Pa.) College, 4-3, in walkoff fashion in the championship. It’s the 14th Centennial title in school history. The Blue Jays have now won 19 games in a row and are ranked second in the country in Division 3. … Needing two wins to secure a spot in the MEAC tournament, Maryland Eastern Shore won back-to-back games against Norfolk State on walk-offs. The Hawks are locked in as the three-seed in the tourney, but still don’t know who they’ll be playing. … Stevenson University officially announced that head coach Jason Tawney is retiring. The Mustangs say they will begin a nationwide search for Tawney’s successor immediately. … On Sunday evening, Johns Hopkins and Salisbury University will find out regional tournament assignments for the next round of the postseason. Each team won its conference tournament to earn automatic bids. Hopkins is currently ranked first in the Mid-Atlantic region while Salisbury is second in the South.
Matchup to watch
Maryland will play its final home weekend series of the season, hosting Northwestern University for three games beginning Friday. The Terps have been dominant this year at home and hope that continues against the Wildcats. Maryland currently sits in third place in the Big Ten Conference with the postseason quickly approaching.