Lancer Baseball Will Thrive in 2011
This week is one of my favorite weeks of the year, and it’s not because I love discount chocolate.
Major league teams’ pitchers and catchers report to Arizona and Florida for spring training this week. Lancer baseball, however, has been practicing since January 23. Gotta love northern Indiana.
I know from two years of playing for Grace that the first month of practicing in the confines of the Robert and Frances Gordon Student Recreation Center is the toughest part of the entire season. Taking ground balls off a rubber floor and hitting baseballs off a tee for three hours every day isn’t fun, no matter how much you love the game.
Spring fever sets in pretty quick.
This Thursday, however, Grace baseball gets to shake free of the slush and play their first games this weekend in Toccoa Falls, Ga. I’ve been asked provide a little bit of an insider perspective on the upcoming season. As a former player (I was one of the best sunflower-seed-spitters on the team), I’ll try to provide some insights into what looks to be a very promising upcoming season.
The Lancers return most of their starters from last season, in which they won 21 games, the most wins in recent memory. Pitching is the biggest key for any team, and seniors Michael Clark and Brad Heintz look to provide experience and leadership to what should be a solid starting rotation.
Offensively, the Lancers should also be very fun to watch. Juniors Nate Wottring and Josh Petry will look to continue on their successful offensive performances over the last two years and will benefit from added protection in a lineup which should be strong from top to bottom.
Overall, the Lancers have every reason to be optimistic this spring. They’ve got all the pieces in place—the solid pitching, good defense, and timely hitting that is required to win in the game of baseball, and I know that the coaching staff looks at this year with great optimism and renewed excitement.
There will always be a few issues to iron out early on due to the limited practicing options indoors, but a winning season is certainly not a far-fetched concept. Grace baseball would love to reach the 30-win plateau and after looking at their schedule, that goal is challenging but very much within reach. I see this team winning 25 to 30 games.
In the MCC preseason poll, Grace was left out of the top six, but look for them to be in the mix when the dust clears in late April. I think the Lancers have the needed experience and talent to turn some of those one and two-run losses into late inning wins, which could vault them into the top five.
It may sound crazy right now, but I predict a top-six finish and a record-breaking season. But hear me when I say this: That type of year will only come about if the pitching and defense remain solid. That’s the biggest key. The offense will come for this team regardless.
I look forward to watching this team come together and light up the Miller Field scoreboard. Besides, what’s better than spending a beautiful Saturday afternoon at the ballpark?
On a side note, Coach Dittmar grills a mean hot dog.
By Will Thrasher
This column was published in the February 18 issue of The Sounding Board, Grace College’s student newspaper.