Last May, the Dayton Flyers’ baseball squad found themselves in the midst of a transition as it was announced that former coach Tony Vittorio would be stepping down after 18 seasons at the helm. Vittorio’s 461 wins makes him the winningest coach in program history, forming a winning culture around the team as a testament to that success.
But as one era ends, another begins.
Jayson King was hired in June by the university and tasked with replicating and reigniting the success the Flyer baseball team has enjoyed over the past 18 years. The team had a .375 winning percentage in Atlantic 10 Conference play last year, but with several key players returning this season, the Flyers will be looking to bounce back.
Despite his inability to bring in his own recruits this season, King believes success can start now with the current team.
“I’m inheriting a roster … Everything is here to be very successful. I don’t see a lot of real challenges [with the players] that I’ll have to overcome. It’s just a matter of getting the guys to believe.”
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King’s success as a college coach speaks for itself, and his credentials give both players and fans every reason to be optimistic. He has 675 wins to his name as a coach at both Franklin Pierce University and UMass-Boston, accounting for a .610 winning percentage over that same period.
King’s domination as a coach in NCAA Division II play included 10 conference championships and seven trips to the College World Series. At Dayton, he is determined to build off of his prior success, looking to rekindle and expand the Flyers’ winning ways in both the short and long-term.
“For this season, our goal is to compete every pitch,” King said. “We want to win the conference and advance to the regionals; that’s the ultimate goal … If you don’t have high expectations and lofty goals, you’re never going to reach anything that special.”
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With high expectations in mind, King is looking to build and strengthen the team in every category offensively and defensively as the season approaches.
“We really want to be a well-rounded team,” he said. “We’re all pretty greedy as coaches, as far as the development-side. If you don’t have all those bases covered, there’s going to be a breakdown.”
The Dayton squad will face several talented teams both in-and-out of conference this spring. Rivals VCU and URI finished first and second, respectively, in the conference last season, and the Flyers will have a three-game series with each this year.
Notable non-conference matchups include Miami (OH) and Virginia Tech. King believes each and every matchup this season will be competitive.
“The players that we have are more than capable of doing very well in the conference and outside of it,” he said. “It’s a matter of playing aggressively and focusing on the little things. If we compete hard and do those things, everything will fall into place.”
The team as a whole has bought into King’s positive attitude and dedication to well-rounded play.
“We just come in everyday and give it everything we got,” said redshirt sophomore outfielder Brandon Smith, who led the Flyers last year with 12 home runs. “The coaches give everything they have, we give everything we have, and we just meet each other in the middle.”
Junior Austin Cline, whose five wins led the Flyers’ pitching staff in 2017, agrees with his teammate.
“They’re going to give us 100 percent,” he said. “We’re going to give them 100 percent. [Under King] We’re much more tight-knitted.”
The Flyers open their season away on Friday at the University of South Carolina Upstate. King is excited to get out of the cold weather, but even more optimistic about the fast-approaching season.
“I really do like these guys we have,” King said once more. “We’re going to have a very competitive team and we’re going to have a lot of fun out there playing the game.”
The Flyers’ first home game is on March 6.
Photo courtesy of Dayton Athletics.