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He’s been coaching baseball since 1963 and now he’s making his marking at the College of Southern Maryland.

Jack Cheseldine is passing on 50 years of baseball knowledge to a small squad of 15 baseball players. He took the job late last August and coached the fall team for CSM and now he’s ready to coach up his spring team.

College of Southern Maryland baseball

Head coach: Jack Cheseldine (first season)

Last year: 15-33 (6-21, 14th in MD JUCO)

Athletes to watch: P Austin Murphy (So., Chopticon), P Jason Funkhouser (So.)

Key personnel losses: P David Sapp (Leonardtown), INF Jared Eaker (Leonardtown), INF Donnie Holtzclaw (Patuxent), OF Devin Mackey (St. Mary’s Ryken), C Mitchell Seifert (Chopticon), OF Brandon Remailia (North Point), P Jonathan Nagy (Chopticon), P Kevin Bauer, P James Powers (Northern), INF Nick Willoughby, P Ryan Neeley (Lackey)

Strengths: Cheseldine said his team bonded well in the fall and are used to playing together at this point.

He was happy with the Hawks’ season opener on March 2, a doubleheader sweep at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf against Garrett by scores of 5-1 and 3-1. CSM lost its first game of the season on Tuesday, 5-3 to Chesapeake, also played at Regency.

The two starting pitchers, Murphy and Funkhouser, are going to be looked upon to lead the team on the mound.

Weaknesses: Losing two eligible sophomores will hurt the Hawks this year as Sapp and Eaker transferred after just one year. Sapp transferred to Towson University and Eaker stayed close to home and is now attending St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Cheseldine said both would have made an impact to the thin roster.

Although he’s happy that 24 athletes came out for the team, he knows he doesn’t have too much room to make changes with the 15 players that he has now. Cheseldine said that although the numbers are thin, they will all get ample playing time.

Coach’s comments: “They’ve bought into the program. They understand the challenges. If we can keep six of them for next season, that will be great. The coaching staff sat down and we know we need organization and discipline. I gave the players a copy of my philosophy and they know what I expect. They’re playing hard and giving it their best.”

Key games: March 13 vs. Montgomery at Regency Furniture Stadium, Waldorf; March 15 at Harford; March 19 vs. Rappahannock (DH) at Regency Furniture Stadium, Waldorf

TAMMY SHOWALTER

“We basically came in on a wing and prayer,” Cheseldine said. “We really didn’t have time to do a lot of recruiting. It’s going to take a year or two to get things going. We got the fall program rolling and I told the players that we were basically using that time as training camp.”

Cheseldine took over when Joe Blandford passed on the playbook after 12 seasons as the skipper. In Blandford’s final season in 2012, the Hawks finished 15-33 overall, 6-21 in MD JUCO. Cheseldine has assistant coaches Mark Calvert and Aaron Michael in the dugout with him.

“I really have a great coaching staff and the kids have bought into what we’re doing here.” Cheseldine said. “We’re thin, we can’t make a lot of moves, but they’re really starting to play together as a team. They’ve bonded well. They know my philosophy and they know what’s expected.”

The 2012 Hawks suffered 10 straight losses and struggled, finishing 14th out of 15 teams in the very tough MD JUCO league. It had been since 2006 since the team has suffered such losses, 34 in 2006.

Cheseldine coached for the Catholic Youth Organization in 1963 and then started his high school career at Bishop McNamara High School in 1968. In 12 years, Cheseldine wrapped up a 120-68 record and took his team to the playoffs four years straight, from 1976 to 1979. He was honored as Coach of the Year in 1978.

He went on to coach from 1980 to 1994 in the Coors Charles-St. Mary’s Baseball League, where he was president of the organization for 10 years. He won the regular season championship seven times and was Manager of the Year in 1994.

Cheseldine made his mark on the diamond at St. Mary’s Ryken in 1995 where he coached until 2002. He took over the head coaching job in 2003 and remained for three consecutive years. Cheseldine went to Thomas Stone High School to coach and stayed until 2010.

His high school record is 136-115 and, in 2007, he received the Service to Baseball Award from the Maryland State high school baseball association.

The Hawks started the season with a doubleheader sweep over Garrett at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf on March 2, defeating Garrett by scores of 5-1 and 3-1. CSM suffered its first loss of the season on Tuesday night against Chesapeake, 5-3. That game was also played at Regency.

“We played good defense and our pitching was good,” Cheseldine said. “We just had some miscues and then gave up a walk and a base hit and you know how that goes. We go down 2-0 real quick. We settled down, but couldn’t get it back.”

Cheseldine and his coaching staff are concentrating on recruiting more now and he’s hoping to turn the reputation of the program around.

“Good or bad, I think the program got a bad rap in the past,” Cheseldine said, “We’re on a different path. We feel the kids that we’ll go after will benefit from this program and this school and prepare them to transfer to a four-year program.”

When asked if he thinks his team will appreciate and absorb his 50 years of knowledge, Cheseldine laughed, humbly. He’s happy to be spending his home games at such a nice field as Regency Furniture Stadium.

“Come on out, it’s a nice field,” Cheseldine said. “There were some real nice people out there. I don’t know how they stayed in that cold weather, but they did. We played hard. We gave it our best shot, we just couldn’t pull it out.”

tshowalter@somdnews.com