Baseball Looks To Build On Last Season’s Success

Cole Anderson

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This article was authored by Riley Foreman.

The temperatures outside may not reflect it, but the Whitman baseball team has spring fever. The clubhouse impatiently waits for the opportunity to post a consecutive winning record and build on their seventh-place conference finish last season.

To repeat such a feat would be difficult enough, but to do so without the dozen players who graduated last May is an even bigger challenge for which the young squad is trying its best to prepare.

Just one week into the spring semester, the prep work is already underway. The older generation of players wasted no time immersing the 14 newcomers in the team’s philosophy. Senior Jonny Chow reflected on the first-years’ progress during the first week of spring practices.

“They have done a phenomenal job bringing a positive attitude and energy to the yard every day, which has definitely helped spark a quick, collective growth for this almost entirely new Whitman baseball team,” he said.

Junior infielder and captain Paul Heywood is also impressed with his younger teammates’ rapid acceleration though the learning curve.

“The freshmen had a lot to learn, both about college baseball and about college itself.  So far it has been exciting to see how they stick together as a group and look after each other,” said Heywood.

With conference matchups fast approaching, the team hopes that the preseason will further acclimate the newcomers to college ball. On Feb. 8 Whitman will host Corban University for a doubleheader before heading to Texas, where they will play four additional preseason games. Their Northwest Conference opener will be played at Willamette University towards the end of February.

In the meantime, the program will focus its energy on practices. Players have juggled two-a-days since returning to Whitman, which typically consist of a morning gym session followed by an afternoon practice on the field. On weekends the team participates in live scrimmages, which have been helpful, to an extent.

“We do our best to simulate live situations in practice, but nothing beats real-game experience,” said Heywood.

Sophomore Jackson Destefano agrees that the preseason games will help the team come together.

“We are going to need to develop experience as we go throughout the season. The more game experience these [first-year] guys get, the better they are going to be in the future. Down the rope they are going to have the same power class that we had in the seniors last year,” he said.

However, team chemistry and a solid work ethic might not be enough to place in the upper half of such a competitive conference. Whitman will need to start strong and continue to perform at a high level, especially during spring break, when they will face George Fox and Pacific Lutheran –– both of whom finished in the top three of the NWC last spring.

“I think the biggest focus for us has been learning to play with consistency throughout the season. Baseball is a game built on adversity, and learning how to handle that is key to success,” said Head Men’s Baseball Coach Sean Kinney. “Learning to trust the process and not the result in the short term will create better consistency in the long term.”

Despite the anticipation for the coming weeks, the veteran players are not afraid to look back at the early years of their Whitman careers and reflect on the path the program took to finally breach a .500 record.

“It is important that we continue to acknowledge the fact that our performance last season was the product of many years of hard work and sacrifice from the guys before us,” said Chow.

With this in mind and a new crop of talent, these guys are ready to play ball.

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