Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Wilk Guides Georgetown Nine to Their Best Finish in 19 Seasons

Courtesy Georgetown Sports Information In his fifth season at the helm of Georgetown’s baseball team, Pete Wilk coached the Hoyas to a 25-30 record, their best result since a 27-25 campaign in 1985.

On Feb. 24, the Georgetown baseball team suffered a heartbreaking loss to George Washington, in which the Hoyas squandered a 6-1 lead. Just 10 days into the season, Georgetown seemed to be in danger of falling into a big hole.

“We started 1-5 and you have to believe there’s some doubt creeping in,” Head Coach Pete Wilk said. “The challenge was to stay together, to believe in what we knew was a good baseball team.”

And the Hoyas did recover.

After defeating Mount St. Mary’s, Georgetown swept Buffalo in four games, quickly improving its record to 6-5. Georgetown would go on to finish the season 25-30 overall, the program’s winningest season since going 27-25 in 1985.

“The Buffalo series was pivotal,” Wilk said. “They started believing in themselves. They knew we were still a good ball club, and I think keeping the doubt out of the locker room at that point was big.”

His team’s strong play throughout the season and his ability to keep his players focused and energize over the course of 55 games has earned Pete Wilk THE HOYA’s Coach of the Year honors.

Wilk came to Georgetown in 1998 as an assistant and took over the program in 2000. After enduring several difficult years, including a 9-47 season in 2002, the Hoyas took a tremendous step forward in 2004.

“It was evident to me and to everybody involved in the program that this is the best team we’ve had in a number of years,” Wilk said. “I told [the team] repeatedly that they can play with anybody and beat anybody.”

The team’s success can be attributed to three main factors – defense, pitching and attitude.

Sophomore Matt Johnson and junior Parker Brooks, both medical red-shirts in 2003, anchored a defense that was one of the team’s strengths this year. In six more games, the 2004 Hoyas committed 21 fewer errors than last season.

Several pitchers also made significant strides this year. Junior Eddie Pena tied for the team lead with five wins and was Georgetown’s most dependable starter. Wilk also used Pena out of the bullpen on occasion, and displayed his confidence in the right-hander by pitching him in all but two Big East series.

Sophomore Warren Sizemore and freshman Erick Chandler also notched five wins, and sophomore Stephen Burns pitched well all year, although his record suffered due to a lack of run support.

Wilk’s best move may have been naming junior Thomas Braun his closer. Braun was given the job in early March and responded with seven saves. Freshman southpaw Mark Dutmers, who held opposing left-handers to a team-best .200 batting average, also strengthened the bullpen, which had been a weakness in previous years.

“I have to give [pitching coach Doc] Beeman a tremendous amount of credit for how he handled the pitchers this year,” Wilk said. “Each pitcher had his ups and downs, and he just provides a steady influence and the voice of experience all in one.”

Heading into the season, it seemed as if Georgetown’s offense was going to be its strength. Yet several hitters had long dry spells at the plate, and the lineup as a whole failed to get untracked over a span of several games.

“I thought we underachieved offensively all year,” Wilk said. “We have the ability to hit a lot better than we did this year, and that to me is probably the most disappointing part of the year.”

Wilk showed that he is not averse to shaking up the lineup to try and spark the offense, but when his team is slumping at the plate, his main goal is to keep them loose.

“You just try to create a light atmosphere in that dugout,” Wilk explained. “It’s a game based on failure, and if they don’t have some fun, or if they spend their at bats thinking about anything other than putting the bat on the ball, then they’re in trouble.”

Wilk’s emphasis on simplifying the game and having fun clearly rubbed off on the Hoyas this season. The players did not panic after losing five of their first six contests, and recovered to play at the .500 level through mid-April. Georgetown played No. 4 Notre Dame close during its three game series, and while the Irish came away with a sweep, the Hoyas’ play demonstrated that they could compete with the best the conference has to offer.

For Wilk, the biggest difference in this team is its attitude. He points to their ability to bounce back from tough losses, as well as their refusal to roll over and concede a loss.

“The clubs in the past knew that they were weak in some areas,” Wilk said. “This team knew that they were a very good baseball team and had the ability to win, and I don’t think any team has believed that in years. And I’m not sure we had the right to believe that until this year.”

After a string of last-place finishes, this season showed that Georgetown could field a competitive team in the Big East. While the program falls short of its conference rivals in terms of scholarships and other resources, Wilk refuses to use this fact as a crutch.

“We have the things that Georgetown offers that the other universities don’t have,” Wilk said. “We have the things that money can’t buy. We have the academics, the education and the city.”

“We can get a lot better,” he added. “Under our current parameters, I thought we could get to the middle of the pack in the Big East. I still believe that until we reach that, I don’t consider my job a success.”

When Georgetown closed out the 2004 season with a doubleheader split against Villanova on Monday, the Hoyas walked out to right field for their final postgame huddle of the year.

As Wilk approached his players, he had to stop for a moment.

“About 10 feet from the crowd, I got choked up and I couldn’t address them,” Wilk said. “I needed a couple minutes. It wasn’t just a year – it was a culmination of seven years. I didn’t want this season to end. Every other year I’ve been here it’s been like a big sigh of relief, but I didn’t want this to end.”

“It was a special year with special kids, and I told them that they changed the program,” Wilk added. “I just wish that this could be a Team of the Year rather than Coach of the Year, because this is a really special team.”

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