The most consistent team at Hutchinson Community College, during the last 20 years, is without a doubt the baseball team.
Since a 17-27 record in 1993, consider the following:
Hutchinson has had five 40-win seasons.
Hutchinson has had 10 additional seasons with at least 30 wins.
Hutchinson has won seven Jayhawk West championships and two Region 6 titles, placing third at the 2010 NJCAA World Series.
No other HCC program can match that run of consistency over the last 20 years. It also might make you wonder what happened this year, when Hutchinson went 22-30 and finished sixth in the Jayhawk West under first-year coach Ryan Schmidt.
The easy thing to do is to blame Schmidt, who built Pratt into a respectable program before taking over at Hutch last summer for the departed Kyle Crookes, who is now a Central Missouri assistant.
But looking at HCC baseball history, the first year for a new coach often has resulted in a step back. One exception, not surprisingly, is Crookes, who won the Jayhawk West and Region 6 in his first season in 2005.
In Jon Wente’s first year in 2003, the Blue Dragons won 10 fewer games (47 to 37) from Andy Sawyers’ last season.
In Sawyers’ first season in 2001, the Blue Dragons won five fewer games (45 to 40) from Burgi’s last season. That 2001 season also snapped a run of three straight conference titles.
Burgi’s first year in 1991 saw a drop of 16 wins (32 to 16) from Brad Hill’s final season.
That’s three pretty darn good coaches who saw a dropoff in wins from their predecessor’s final season. Even Hill, now the wildly successful Kansas State coach, had a losing season (17-25) in 1988, his first at HCC.
When Hutchinson was wallowing in last place this season, Schmidt never lost faith in this year’s team. And his team didn’t lose faith in Schmidt, as the Blue Dragons won 12 of their last 17 regular-season games. They also won nine of their last 13 Jayhawk West games, including that 19-inning ultra-marathon against Colby.
It’s not an easy thing following a coach like Kyle Crookes and what he built. But as Wente, Sawyers and Burgi found out, following any baseball coach at HCC isn’t easy. But with a little patience, all those coaches proved they were just as capable as their predecessor.
Schmidt most likely will too.