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The Scarlet & Black

A cool start to the baseball season

John Brady
Yuki Kawahara ’15 hits during batting practice on Monday Feb. 24. Photograph by John Brady.

The Grinnell baseball team will kick off its season in St. Louis facing North Park University and Wartburg College on Saturday and Webster University on Sunday. With many talented newcomers, rigorous practices and a dedicated mindset, the team is confident that this season will be a good one.

“I’m excited because I think we have a lot of young talent,” said Kainoa Inafuku ’14, one of the team’s four captains. “We have a really strong pitching staff and just from the hard work and focus that this team had starting from as far back as NSO, I’m excited to see what we can do.”

Yuki Kawahara ’15 hits during batting practice on Monday Feb. 24. Photograph by John Brady.
Yuki Kawahara ’15 hits during batting practice on Monday Feb. 24. Photograph by John Brady.

The start of any sporting season can be difficult, due to an influx of first-year players, who may need time to adjust to their new team’s style of play. No matter, the team’s eight first-years have settled in well and are ready to make immediate contributions to the team’s goal of winning the Midwest Conference title.

“The first-years have adjusted to the team incredibly both on and off the field,” said Eli Freese ’14, also a team captain. “They have adapted to our team’s style of play and have been great additions. We’re really excited about the first-years and their potential to contribute on the field.”

Niko Takayesu ’17 certainly did not have a difficult time integrating to the team. Incidentally, he attended a rival high school of Inafuku’s in Hawaii. But now, they play to support each other.

“We’re friends now, [so] it’s all good,” Takayesu said. “Occasionally, he’ll get on my case for going to Punahou [School], but we’ve got that Hawaii bond.”

According to head coach Tim Hollibaugh, his team has developed greatly from its previous years in both its mentality and skills.

“The big change has been the players’ commitment to off-season training and more on the intensity side of things,” he said. “They have worked hard and continue to improve each day.”

In addition to those advancements, the players have an undefeatable attitude.

“Our team is much more energetic and enthused about the upcoming season than we were last year. We have a drive and desire that I think is really going to propel us,” Freese said.

And with such a cohesive team, Grinnell will no doubt compete at the highest level in conference.

“Our team chemistry this year is really up-tempo and loose,” Frees said. “Regardless of what we’re doing, jokes are being told and energy is high. Everyone is flying around at practice and spirits are always up. It’s a really fun atmosphere and I am thankful to be a part of it.”

The players can be seen eating together at the Dining Hall and hanging out as a team. The support that they show each other will serve them immensely as they prepare for the beginning of the season.

“[The team chemistry] is an ongoing process in baseball,” Hollibaugh said. “Once games start, that is when it truly starts to develop. They are a close group off the field, and I hope this continues once we start playing games.”

This year’s team hopes to succeed on the basis of a great coaching staff and their own hard work.

“What’s going to be awesome about this year is that this is really going be a team victory,” Inafuku said. “You’re not necessarily always going to see the one guy stand out.”

Overall, the season is shaping up to be an exciting and a memorable one. With all the hard work and dedication the players have been putting in, expectations are high and players are determined to achieve them.

“We want a season, [in which] everyone can enjoy the game of baseball that they have put so much time and effort into,” Freese said “With that being said, we expect to win Conference. There’s no doubt about it. We have more than enough talent to get the job done and we’re in a great position to do it.”

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