Men’s baseball aims for turn around after recent slump

Andrew Hawkins

Whitman College baseball coach Jared Holowaty’s baseball program has the potential to turn around a recent slump with this year’s 2010 recruiting class. In order to become a competitive college within the Northwest Conference, Holowaty must keep his players dedicated to the team so that they may become as strong and consistent performers as their opponents.

Photos by Julia Bowman; Design by Jack Lazar

Last year, Holowaty was new to the program and therefore never had the chance to recruit players for Whitman’s team. The team only had 12 men: a third of the size of a typical college team. The players Holowaty had at his disposal had been recruited by former coach Casey Powell, who resigned in 2009 after seven years as coach at Whitman in order to become an assistant coach at Seattle University.

However, the first-year class has the opportunity to make this program competitive within the Northwest Conference.

“Last year we came into a situation that was left to us and did the best we could,” said Coach Holowaty. “[The players] worked harder than any team I’ve had in the past.”

On Friday, Feb. 18, the team played: and lost: two games, 15-9 and 9-1 respectively, to the College of Idaho, a team ranked 21st in Division III.

Currently, the men’s team record is 0-8 after losing all four games in the series to Idaho and losing four games in Arizona. After so many losses, the question must be asked: Can Whitman turn this program around?

The Northwest  Conference is comprised of teams  predominately  from Washington, Oregon and Idaho. The games played so far do not count for the conference and are significant only in providing practice for the young team. Playing at a higher level is key to Whitman’s longevity as a contending team in the conference.

Overall, Whitman  baseball players  have had a hard time maintaining commitment to the program, with players leaving frequently after only one season of play. In order to turn this team around, the team will need to retain its players for more than a year so that every season Whitman does not field an inexperienced team.

Currently, 18 of the 24 players are freshmen.

“The players we are recruiting now … want to compete. They come to Whitman to compete and to get a good education,” said Holowaty. “These kids are working extremely hard and they’re committed. They are committed to turning the baseball program around and they’re proud of that.”

“We started eight freshman,” said first-year pitcher Dakota Matherly. “It’s a big step up from high school.”

The jump from high school to college is a sizable one. Most of the starters the baseball team faces have 30 games under their belt and two or three years of college baseball practice, whereas most Whitman players have played a handful of games and had only six months of college  practice.

“[Generally we play teams] who start seven seniors,” said Matherly.

This year the men’s baseball team returns a mere six players, two of whom are starters. They are led by senior captains Eric Korsmo and Jay Richards.

Both Korsmo and Richards are consistent hitters. Korsmo made his presence known with a two-run home run in the seventh inning during the first game of the series, while Richards was walked in five of his six times at bat. The leadership that Korsmo and Richards demonstrate will be an example that the team will follow for years to come. If Whitman wants to turn the program around, they need the quality of Richards’ and Korsmo’s play and commitment to be the standard, not the exception.

“To be on the level of nationally-competitive teams, we need to be at least as good as [seniors Richards and Korsmo], if not better,” said Matherly.

“We need to get better every year. Aaron Cohen, freshman, is the all-time home run hitter in the state of Alaska. The caliber of the Whitman students is the best ever, starting this year,” said Holowaty.

With such a young team, the team has the potential to turn their own program around.

“The talent is there,” said Matherly.  “It just needs to be developed.”

The Whitman team has the youth and potential to be a contending team for the conference. However, it needs time to develop and truly become competitive. The baseball team may need more than a preseason to turn its program around, but Hollowaty has started the sparks of what could be a successful and strong program.