|Questions and answers First-year Tyrone baseball coach Dustin Schoening goes head-to-head with Daily Herald sports writer Kerry Naylor about his first season as Eagles’ head coach. (The Daily Herald/Courtesy Photo)|
Coaching a varsity sport isn’t easy. It’s even tougher when you’re the figure head of a regime change.
That was the situation Tyrone baseball coach Dustin Schoening was facing this season. Not only was he replacing Tyrone athletic director Tom Coleman, who guided Tyrone to three playoff berths in his five years as varsity coach, but he was, in a sense, remaking the program. Since Bill Vigne took over the program at Tyrone in 1990, it had been coached every season since by Vigne, Coleman, or some combination of the two, whether in a head coach or assistant capacity. In four of those seasons, Coleman was a player.
And change is never easy.
Maybe that’s why the Golden Eagles stumbled out of the gate with a 2-8 start in 2008. Or maybe it was because their hitting never got untracked until late April. Or maybe it was because their fielding was at times dicey at best. Whatever the case, things weren’t looking good for what must have seemed like an eternity to Schoening.
But the Golden Eagles picked it up as the weather began to improve, and managed to finish the season with wins in 5 of their last 7 games. They even made a late push for the District 6-AA playoffs and ended the year with a 9-6 win over Bald Eagle Area, the 2007 PIAA Class AA champion that recently won the District 6 championship for the second straight season.
All in all, it was a pretty eventful season for the first-year coach.
The Daily Herald spoke with Schoening on the heels of the 2008 campaign.
Daily Herald: How would you characterize your first season as a head coach? Was it what you expected?
Schoening: I would characterize my first season of coaching as more than what I expected. I don’t think there is anyway to prepare mentally for what you are getting into as a varsity coach. It was a learning experience for me and my staff and I look forward to next year.
DH: In what ways did you see the team progress this season from beginning to end?
Schoening: Well, we finished 5-2 in our last 7 games and ended with an impressive win over BEA, so you could say we improved as the season went on. I felt like we went through some ups and downs like you would expect to have with teenagers in a sport like baseball. I definitely was happy to see some of my younger players improve as the year went and my seniors establish some leadership qualities.
DH: Do you think some of your philosophies began to take root with the team as the season went on?
Schoening: I definitely think that was apparent. I noticed the kids buying into the bunting and running more the second half of the season and it was really important for the future for the kids to see how successful our game can be when it’s executed the right way.
DH: Was it difficult moving to a new league with a tougher schedule considering your team’s youth?
Schoening: Yes. I think that was a huge challenge for all of the coaches and the players. It was the biggest challenge we had all year was facing very tough competition on a daily basis. The kids stayed strong through it all and didn’t get intimidated and we played all of the teams tough.
DH: What was the key to your team’s push for a playoff spot with 4 straight wins in early May?
Schoening: I think the number one thing was confidence along with playing together as a team and trusting one another. I think whenever we got a win against Penns Valley for the second time, that was a huge confidence builder and it just grew with every win. The kids learned a valuable lesson whenever they missed practice and I really think that helped them appreciate the game after that instance.
DH: How would you describe the seasons of Shaffer and Desch and how they will help you next year?
Schoening: Shaffer was such a leader offensively. He always kept his cool and found a way to get some huge hits for us. Desch was a warrior on the mound. His competitiveness is second to none and he always found a way to get the job done when he pitched. They are both blessed with a tremendous amount of talent.
I think they are two of many guys that we are going to need for next year. They both took huge steps this year and I look for big things from both of them as leaders next year. They serve as a great foundation for the future.
DH: What are your expectations for next year?
Schoening: I expect us to be very talented but young. We have some experience back and our pitching is going to be our strength and we need to improve hitting the ball and on defense.
DH: What can you say about your senior class?
Schoening: I thought they were all very close and tremendous competitors. They all contributed in so many ways and we will definitely miss them. They served as great leaders and I hope the younger players learned some things from the way they carried themselves on the field.