For Piedmont College senior pitcher Sam Carpenter, and seniors around the country, the 2020 spring sports season was just beginning to ramp up. The Lions were (insert record) and battling to find their rhythm while preparing for a big weekend series at Lagrange College. Carpenter was scheduled to pitch the Friday night game. But just hours before the team was scheduled to depart, they were informed that the season was going to be put on hold due to COVID-19. Things only got worse from there.
Within a week of halting the season, the NCAA announced the 2020 spring sports season would be suspended. Heartbreak and shocked ensued, and Carpenter was no exception to these feelings.
“I was devastated,” Carpenter said. “Before the NCAA announced another year of eligibility, I couldn’t imagine my baseball career ending this way. For all of the seniors it was tough because this was our last year of playing together.”
Carpenter had been on a role before the season had been halted, leading Division III baseball in ERA for pitchers with more than 30 innings pitched. He had only given up 3 earned runs though 33 2/3 innings. When news broke of the NCAA’s decision to give athletes an extra year, it felt like everything was falling into place for Carpenter.
“After this spring semester I was going to take a few classes this in the summer to graduate,” he said. “When the NCAA announced that we will receive another year of eligibility, my family and I decided to push that semester back to the spring of 2021. This way, I will able to finish out my senior year.”
Carpenter quickly announced his intentions to return via Instagram and was met with love and support from both teammates and fans. The news spread fast and Head Coach Justin Scali was very happy with the NCAA decision to allow seniors like Carpenter the opportunity to return for another year.
“[Players] missed a good portion of the season and when you look nationally in baseball, there were four teams who had not yet played a game in 2020. It would be hard to imagine counting
the year for those players,” said Scali, who is in his 4th season as the Piedmont head baseball coach. “Sam has been a two-time all-conference pitcher for us and was having another great season. He has gone out on Friday nights for us the past two years and has been so consistent.”
Teammates of Carpenter shared the same feelings as Scali. Social media saw a large trend of athletes calling for the NCAA to “redshirt” every spring sport athlete to make up for canceling the season. Ultimately, the NCAA chose to do just that, and everyone was happy with the decision.
“We hurt for our seniors and our team as a whole,” said Zach Norman, a junior outfielder for the Lions, adding that he was elated to hear the Carpenter was going to be returning to finish what he started. “Sam and quite frankly all of our seniors deserved the chance to have all their hard work rewarded with a full season of baseball. This extra year gives them a chance to play a full season and go out with a proper send off.”
For Carpenter, the extra year is a blessing and a chance to continue to work and grow as a player. His work ethic told him he wasn’t ready to be done just yet. “I write down something after every outing about something I need to improve on. No matter how small that task can be.”
Although Carpenter says “everything was clicking” for him during the short 2020 season, he is eager for next year when he thinks the young team will show significant improvement.
“The 2020 team was such a young inexperienced team, so it was so much fun watching freshman have a huge impact so early,” he said. “It will be awesome to see them grow as players.”