(Photo from ETSU Athletics and featured in the Chattanooga Times Free Press)
The East Tennessee State University Buccaneers baseball team is relying largely on a senior core in order to perform well in the Southern Conference this season. Of the nine starters to take the field each game, four of them are in their final year of eligibility, and Buccaneer designated hitter Caleb Longley is trying to make the most of his chance.
The Bucs are 24-19 and 9-9 in conference play, putting them in sixth place out of nine teams. The Southern Conference is a sneaky good mid-major conference. If there there’s any evidence to prove that, the 31-17 overall Mercer Bears, who knocked off the number one team in the nation, the Florida Gators, are fifth in the conference with a record of 10-10. The top team in the conference, the UNC-Greensboro Spartans, rank 66th in the nation in terms of RPI, the highest rated SoCon team.
Living up to ETSU’s Expectations
Longley transferred from Cleveland State Community College in Cleveland, TN, and played under Coach Policastro for two years. He says those two years prepared him for his time at ETSU. Longley leads the team in both home runs with 10, and RBIs with 41. As a DH, it’s evident how much pride a player would take in his ability to provide offensive production, and Longley backed up that assertion by saying, “Being able to change the game with one swing of the bat is something I definitely take pride in. Driving in runs is my role on the team, and what better way to do so than extra base hits.” This was in reference to home runs, but it also applies to doubles, as he leads the Bucs with 16.
Longley also notched his 100th career Buccaneer hit on April 14:
— ETSU Baseball (@ETSU_Baseball) April 14, 2018
Longley attributes his high offensive output to changes he made in the offseason. He explained, “I 100 percent changed everything about my swing and offensive approach. … I set out to find what all the successful hitters have in common and how I could implement those movements into my swing.” Longley even went so far as to say the changes he made were similar to what Yankees’ slugger Aaron Judge made prior to his Rookie of the Year and Silver Slugger award winning season in 2017.
It showed during a March 23 game when Longley had perhaps a career game, going 4-for-5 with four RBIs:
— ETSU Baseball (@ETSU_Baseball) March 24, 2018
How Longley Has Viewed Himself and Time at ETSU
Players often have different statistics and evaluations that they deem important. Often cited are metrics like batting average, runs batted in, or any number of other stats. When asked what Longley thought was most important in measuring himself, he stated that he most heavily relied on OPS and Runs Created. Both of those measurements have been concluded to be very good measures of a player’s statistical value. The former, OPS, is a simple calculation of on-base percentage plus slugging percentage. The latter, Runs Created, has two forms of calculation, which can be found here. RC has parlayed into a stat called wRC+, which accounts for park factors, and is more often used than its Runs Created counterpart.
Longley also expressed what his best memory has been thus far at ETSU, saying, “The run we made in last year’s SoCon’s tournament.” The Bucs were the number seven seed in that tournament, and began their run against number two Western Carolina, beating them 8-6. They then lost to number three UNCG 6-4. But then the Bucs knocked off VMI and Samford before losing to Furman, finishing third in the tournament.
Longley’s postgraduate plans come as no surprise, as he wants to remain around baseball. When prompted, he responded, “I want to be involved in the game of baseball one way or another. If that is playing, coaching, or private instruction, then I will be content.”
ETSU has eight more games remaining this season, six of which are against conference foes, prior to starting the Southern Conference tournament. Remaining opponents for the Buccaneers include Marshall, Furman, UNC-Asheville, and Wofford.