Tuesday, 14 November 2017 17:45

Scholarship boost levels playing field for Davidson

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Durin O’Linger spent the summer with the Boston Red Sox organization, where he was 4-2 with a 3.24 ERA in 58.1 innings. Durin O’Linger spent the summer with the Boston Red Sox organization, where he was 4-2 with a 3.24 ERA in 58.1 innings. Tim Cowie

The Davidson Wildcats want to be super on a regular basis.

Months after reaching the NCAA Super Regionals for the first time and on the day members of the 2017 team received their championship rings, the underdog baseball program took a significant step toward a level playing field with the donation of a $5.6 million gift that more than doubles the program’s allotment of scholarships to seven.

A fully funded baseball program has nearly 12 scholarships, and seven is competitive within the Atlantic 10 Conference.

“This is deeply transformative for Davidson baseball,” said coach Dick Cooke, who has led the 115-year-old program for 27 seasons.

In May, Davidson rallied to win the A-10 tournament as the No. 6 seed, then won the Chapel Hill Regional, which included defeating host North Carolina twice. That put the Wildcats (35-26) in the Super Regionals against Texas A&M where the storybook run ended.

The star of the postseason, gutsy right-handed pitcher Durin O’Linger, did not receive athletic money to play at Davidson. But he’s excited that more Wildcats now will.

“It’s going to be tremendous for the whole program,” said O’Linger, a long-shot prospect who spent the rest of the summer playing in the Boston Red Sox organization. “They’re going to be able to bring in the kids that maybe you thought were a little out of reach because you couldn’t give them enough money to entice them to come here. Now you have that extra money to play with and can finagle with the budget.”

The anonymous gift was given in honor of director of athletics Jim Murphy, who was a member of the 1975 Wildcats baseball team and has been at the helm of the athletic program since 1995.

But can a program, that before winning five games in four days in May had not won even a conference title, really compete on the national level on a regular basis? O’Linger believes it can. He told the returning Wildcats just that.

“That shouldn’t be a dream,” he said. “That should be an expectation going into every year now because you know you can do it.”

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