The weather is warming up and the sun is beginning to show itself again which can only mean one thing, baseball season is back. As spring approaches the Redhawks will take the field to begin their 2016 season.
Coming off of a second place finish and 19-8 Western Atlantic Conference (WAC) record the Redhawks look to improve their record and ultimately advance deeper into the WAC Tournament. Last year’s season ended after two one-run losses to CSU Bakersfield, falling one pitch short of making regionals.
But the beauty of a new season is a fresh start and Head Coach Donny Harrel has his team ready to compete. Entering his seventh season as skipper Harrel said that the goal this year is the same as every year: winning the conference. Behind this goal he says there are win-clauses.
“Our goal for last year was 30 wins and we accomplished that, so our new goal is 35 total wins,” Harrel said. As is the case in all college sports, there is a disadvantage to losing key players every year either to the pros or graduation.
“Our big senior that left was Brian Olson he was signed by the Minnesota Twins,” Harrel said. “He was our mainstay behind home plate for four years.”
Along with Olson the Redhawks also lost starting OF Landon Cray and lefty starting pitcher Will Dennis to the MLB draft this past year. This is just part of the college system.
“That’s hopefully what we’re trying to create here is giving kids the opportunity to get a good education, but the best players usually go out (to the draft) their junior years and we prepare for that from a recruiting standpoint.”
Coach Harrel is looking to Seniors Sheldon Stober (IF) and Ted Hammond (SP) to lead the team on and off the field. Stober is the reigning team MVP after batting .304 and knocking in 39 runs last season while Hammond lead the team with a 2.63 ERA.
“Hammond’s done a really good job being a leader off campus and running team meetings to make sure everything’s holding tight,” Harrel said. “There’s a good relationship between the older guys and the freshman which hasn’t happened in the past.”
The most important part of a successful team is the chemistry. No one is going to win a championship with a team divided and Harrel knows that.
While he has a good idea of what his lineup will look like for the season, Harrel is still looking for certain pieces such as an everyday left fielder and a closer. Freshman Zach Wolf is someone to look for to take over that closer role as he picked up his first save against Saint Mary’s.
This years team looks younger than last years with 21 underclassmen to nine upperclassmen.
Several returning players look to make a big impact on the team this year. Sophomore pitcher Tarik Skubal will anchor the rotation coming off an impressive freshman year in which he posted a 7-4 record, with 3.24 ERA and 68 strikeouts. Skubal was also a freshman All-American pick, another first for Seattle U.
Skubal began his season with a bang striking out a school record 13 batters in his first start of the year to beat St. Mary’s 4-1. The effort earned him Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week honors.
Overall, Coach Harrel has the Redhawks poised to make a deep run in the postseason. But first, it’s time to kick back, catch some rays, and get ready for baseball season.
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