Seattle U Baseball Readies Themselves for the Long Haul

With Opening Day just around the corner, the Seattle University Redhawks are ready to get their season started. Head coach Donny Harrel is entering his eighth season leading the program and has his guys primed to make another run at the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) title.

PHOTO COURTESY OF SEATTLEU ATHLETICS
PHOTO COURTESY OF SEATTLEU ATHLETICS

Shortstop Griffin Andreychuk enters his fourth year starting for the Redhawks.

After finishing with a program best 37 wins and a regular season WAC title, expectations are high. They were picked to win the WAC again this year, but the team has its sights set on a higher goal. Their 2016 season ended unceremoniously with a 4-0 loss to Utah Valley in the WAC Tournament championship game.

“We didn’t get into a regional, so that loss to Utah Valley puts a chip on our shoulder going into 2017,” coach Harrel said. “Our main focus will always be to win the conference itself, we raised our goal from 35 wins last year to 40 wins this year, we want to raise our RPI as well as knock down that final door and win a conference tournament.”

The Redhawks have a good chance to accomplish these goals with the team that the coaching staff has put together. They are led by their pitching staff, which has three guys who were selected to the preseason All-WAC team. Nick Meservey leads the way, earning the preseason WAC Pitcher of the Year selection after posting a 2.32 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 81.1 innings. Starter Tarik Skubal and reliever Connor Moore were also named to the team.

As has been the philosophy with this coaching staff in the past, pitching and defense will win them games. They start the season with Janson Junk on the mound and are excited to see what freshman Nathan Bonck, who was named the 66th best pitching prospect for his class, has to offer. On top of that last year’s closer, Zach Wolf, was named to the National Collegiate Baseball Writer’s Association 2017 Stopper of the Year Preseason Watch List, the top award for relievers at the college level. This honor comes on the heels of a freshman year that saw Wolf set a single season program record for saves with 12, to go along with 25 strikeouts in 35.2 innings.

“We came in wanting a deep pitching staff to help protect guys like Meservey and Skubal who are coming back from injuries. Our pitching staff will dictate our success,” Harrel said.

The offense is going to go under some changes after losing a lot of big bats last year.

“We’ve got some shoes to fill with a couple draft picks being lost in (Brock) Carpenter and (Michael) McCann and our two time MVP Sheldon Stober,” coach Harrel said. “We’re going to rely heavily on Griffin Andreychuk and Sean Sutton who has taken on a leadership role. Sutton hit .337 and was an All-WAC pick and is just a catalyst.”

Andreychuk, a senior shortstop, and Sutton, a junior first baseman, figure to be the big bats in the lineup, but the team has proven returners who will be called upon to fill in the gaps in the offense left from last years seniors. Junior Dalton Hurd did a little bit of everything last year hitting for average (.282), scoring 36 runs, stealing 18 bases and hitting four home runs.

This is a team bringing 10 freshmen onto the roster, so returning players will play a big role on the team, providing leadership and experience. A young team is not always the best thing, as they have a lack of experience on a higher level of play, but Harrel is confident in the young guys he and his coaches recruited. It provides an interesting contrast to conference rival New Mexico State, who field 20 seniors on their roster. But the Redhawks come into the season with a program high 35 players on the roster, and they are all ready to perform when called upon.

“Coming out to a game you will see us play hard,” coach Harrel said. “We are a relaxed group, but our intensity level is good during the games. The kids are really coached up. We had some of the top hitting and defensive stats last year. You should see us have fun, play hard, respect our opponents and have great character, and act the same way in a win as a loss.

“It’s time to get back to work.”

Willy may be reached at
sports@su-spectator.com

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