Gallaudet baseball team ends 13-year conference losing streak

Right-handed pitcher Jeremy Shepps, left, helped deliver Coach Curtis Pride and the Bison their first conference victory since 1997.
Right-handed pitcher Jeremy Shepps, left, helped deliver Coach Curtis Pride and the Bison their first conference victory since 1997. (Photo Courtesy Of Gallaudet University)
By Mark Viera and Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, April 3, 2010

Surely this was an April Fool's joke. It had to be.

According to celebratory text messages received by family and friends from members of the Gallaudet University baseball team, the Bison had defeated Stevenson University, 5-3, on Thursday in the first game of a doubleheader. But such news was hard to believe on April 1, and harder still because Gallaudet hadn't won a Capital Athletic Conference baseball game since 1997.

But it was no joke. The Bison had really won.

"I've seen a lot of ups and downs," said assistant coach Kris Gould, who has been involved with Gallaudet athletics for 21 years. "Mostly downs."

Since World War II, the only winning seasons for Gallaudet, a liberal arts school for the deaf in Northeast Washington, came in 1966 and 1977, both of which ended with 7-5 records. Banners hang in the school's gym to honor those seasons. But since Gallaudet joined the Capital Athletic Conference as a charter member in 1989, a ledger of losses has defined its baseball team. Before Thursday's win, the Bison were 0-14 in the league this season and 0-20 overall.

They had lost 150 straight games in the conference.

"It had been a long, frustrating season," Coach Curtis Pride, who is deaf, said through an interpreter, "and to finally win our first game and end our streak again of conference games, it lifted a huge monkey off our back."

For a moment, at least. The Bison dropped the second game of the doubleheader to Stevenson, 3-2.

Gallaudet has not experienced much success in other athletic arenas, either, but had a string of recent minor victories before Thursday's win in baseball.

In the fall, the football team had its first winning season at the varsity level since 1930. In December, the women's basketball team snapped a 63-game losing streak in CAC regular season play. And last spring, the softball team won its first conference game since 2001.

Gallaudet has struggled to compete in the CAC and is moving to the North Eastern Athletic Conference, which also competes at the Division III level, starting next season.

In baseball, Pride, a Silver Spring native, has tried to change the losing culture since he became head coach two years ago. He was the only deaf player to reach the major leagues in the modern era and batted .250 in 421 games in parts of 11 seasons through 2006.

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