By STEVE KRAH
Getting a group of athletes to commit to a common goal.
That’s what coaches strive to do with their teams.
“The key is people,” says Marshall, who has led the NCAA Division III Grizzlies since the 1998 season. “Sometimes you may get more in the pitching department and sometimes you may get more in the hitting department. But we try to go get good guys and help them continue careers that they’re proud of. We’ve been fortunate to recruit terrific student-athletes.
“We all realize at some point athletic careers are going to come to an end.”
Franklin’s 2017 roster includes 31 players — 29 with hometowns in Indiana, one from Kentucky and one from Minnesota.
Wherever they come from, Marshall is proud to field a team of “hard-nosed, competitive guys who play hard and play the right way.”
“These two young guys do a terrific job,” says Marshall. “I’m really fortunate to have them here.”
The Griz — off to a 16-9 start — are slated to play 27 games this spring in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, mostly in three-game series. The loop has opted to play 18 conference games in 2018 (nine doubleheaders).
“Baseball is played in series, especially at the big league level and D-I,” says Marshall. The pros to a three-game series is that there is a winner and loser in each if all three games are completed. The down side is the added expense of staying an extra night on the road.
“We’re in a very competitive conference,” says Marshall. “It seems like all the programs continue to get better.”
The 10-team HCAC (which has scheduled its 2017 postseason tournament May 11-13) has been represented in the D-III regional championship game four of the past five seasons — Rose-Hulman in 2014 and 2016, Manchester in 2012 and 2013.
The conference tournament winner receives an automatic bid to the regional. In 2015, the D-III tournament was expanded from 48 to 56 teams.
There are eight regionals with six or eight teams in each. Each regional champion advances to the D-III World Series May 26-31 in Appleton, Wis. Because of a scheduling conflict at Fox Cities Stadium, the 2018 World Series will be held at another location to be determined.
“I’d love to see the championship pool expanded to 64 teams,” says Marshall. “D-III is making a move to (four-team) regionals and (on-campus two-team) super regionals like DI. That’s an exciting change.”
Marshall is also part of the athletic administration. Working with Franklin athletic director Kerry Prather and fellow assistant AD Mary Johnston, Marshall has enjoyed being involved in all FC sports.
“I love being here and being able to support everything,” says Marshall. “We have a ton of outstanding coaches down here.”
Marshall graduated from Elmhurst in 1993 and went on to be a graduate assistant for two years at Rockford College, assistant for two years at Elmhurst and also served as an instructor, regional director and manager of operations for Chicago White Sox Training Centers.
He was an associate scout for the Houston Astros from 1995-98.
Lance Marshall has been head baseball coach at Franklin College since the 1998 season. He is also an assistant athletic director for the Grizzlies.