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Coale gains new perspective at PHCC

May 16, 2016

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) sophomore Ryan Coale knows a thing or two about pressure-packed postseason baseball.

Only this time he’s making his presence known.

It was at this point a year ago that Coale was enjoying a successful run with NCAA Division I Virginia Commonwealth University through the Atlantic 10 tournament, which would end in a 2-0 championship series win over Rhode Island. A week later, the Rams won their first NCAA regional game since 2003 with a 7-2 win over host Dallas Baptist, and later downing the host team again to reach the Super Regionals against the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla.

However, Coale was a mere spectator in the dugout, and while he got to witness the action from a great perspective, not playing in the big games at the highest level was something he said “was one of the toughest years playing baseball.”

“He was able to learn from his coaches, learn from his teammates and see a good eye level of baseball,” Patriots coach Frank Jagoda said. “Unfortunately for him, he didn’t get a whole lot of playing time but he used it as a learning experience. He was able to see the game at a high level and that’s important.”

His humble nature and perseverance helped land him at PHCC this season and he’s only made the most of his next opportunity; one that will take him back to the Division I ranks with James Madison University on scholarship. Coale said he learned a lot during his one season at VCU, but more importantly, how to handle situations in a positive way when things don’t work out as intended.

The first-team All-Region X catcher has been an integral part for the Patriots this spring, and his game-tying home run vs. Catawba Valley in the Region X tournament was just one of a number of moments he’s shared in a Patriots uniform this season.

Through 55 games, Coale leads PHCC in batting average (.425), on-base percentage (.510) and slugging percentage (.672). His 74 hits are second most on the team as 24 of them have gone for extra bases, including eight home runs. His keen eye at the plate also has helped him earn 25 walks to just 12 strikeouts in 174 at bats.

But it’s not just his bat that does the talking, his ability behind the plate and the way he handles the Patriots’ pitching staff has led to the growth of freshman catch Roger Sosa, said Jagoda. Even more impressive is his four errors in 287 attempts for a .986 fielding percentage, helping him earn an All-Region X Defensive Team selection. He has 258 putouts and 25 assists, as well.

Coale said there is a lot of preparation involved when it comes to handling a variety of pitchers, and to perform on a consistent basis as a catcher.

“He blocks the baseball up, receives it well and can throw it. He does a good job of being a leader for the (pitching) staff,” Jagoda said. “Him and Jack (Maynard) have a good rapport, and I think you can see the same developing with Anthony (Zona), as well.”

Being able to work with Maynard, an All-Region X first-team selection and All-American nominee, is something Coale said was one of the best experiences this season. At times, Patriots pitching coach Casey Hodges has let the battery call the game themselves and have done so with efficient results.

“He’s an unbelievable pitcher, probably one of the best pitchers I’ve ever caught,” said Coale of the team’s No. 1 weekend starter. “It’s a different kind of comfort level with him because you know where he’s going to throw a pitch. He does a lot to prepare and makes it a lot of fun.”

Looking back at his teammates, however, isn’t the only vantage point Coale’s had in the field. He’s also spent a considerable amount of time in left field during the team’s doubleheaders. The sophomore said that JMU wanted him to play some outfield and get acclimated to playing another position.

Playing good defense in the outfield also helped gain the trust of his teammates, Jagoda added.

“It’s one of the last positions I’ve kind of played,” Coale admitted. “I was always like a third base, corner guy. Coach helped me get reps out there and it’s definitely different from being in the play on every pitch.”

Strong athletic genes run through the rest of the Coale family. His older brother Danny was a standout wide receiver at Virginia Tech and was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the fifth round of the NFL Draft in 2012. His other older brother, Kevin, starred on the U.Va. lacrosse team.

“It’s pretty special to have brothers that I do that support me no matter what, along with my parents,” Coale said. “They know that whatever I give will be 100 percent every time. My parents are road warriors and are always there.”

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