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Baseball begins its regular season this weekend in St. Louis

The baseball team enters the season with high expectations. They starts their season this weekend. Photos by Hung Vuong.

The Pioneer baseball season is underway, with the first tournament of the year coming up this weekend in St. Louis, MO. While baseball is a warm-weather game, the team has been practicing since the first week of the semester, utilizing the fieldhouse to escape frigid temperatures.

Head Coach Tim Hollibaugh is in his 23rd season at Grinnell now. Hollibaugh is as tuned-in as ever as the team prepares for a tough schedule.

“We’ve got one of the top ten toughest schedules in the country,” Hollibaugh said. “This group has really high expectations, but I’m trying to keep them focused on this first weekend. [This weekend] we play two really good teams, and we’ve got to win that tournament. If we take that approach, of trying to win the weekends that we do compete, I believe everything will take care of itself.”

This weekend, the Pioneers take on the University of Chicago and Illinois Wesleyan, two teams that, it’s safe to say, are predicted to have good seasons. Luckily, Grinnell’s Pioneers have a lot of return talent from last season.

Hollibaugh is particularly enthusiastic about the returning pitchers.

“We have a majority of our pitching staff,” he said. “We’ve got an ample number of arms with experience, some great first-years.”

One of those returning arms belongs to Sam LaMotte ’20, last year’s Midwest Conference Newcomer of the Year. LaMotte thinks that his experience will be a big advantage this year.

“I’d say the biggest difference between this year and last year is that I know what to expect when I get in the games,” LaMotte wrote in an email to The S&B. “Every hitter that we see in college baseball is one of the better hitters that we saw in high school baseball, so understanding that you do not get a hitter off was a big adjustment [last year].”

Ravi Levens ’19, an infielder on the team, echoed much of what Hollibaugh said regarding the quality of returning players this season.

“Our biggest strength this year is our depth,” Levens wrote in an email to The S&B. “We have a lot of players this year which I think most people have noticed, but this means we have three even four really talented guys at each position, which is nice to see.”

Ideally, their tough out-of-conference schedule will result in them being fully prepared for their conference opponents.

“These guys want to win a conference championship, and it’s just a matter of balancing academics and still being able to compete,” Hollibaugh said.

The Pioneers have a tough schedule, certainly, but the team appears up for it.

“I’m always excited to play home games, I really enjoy playing on our home field in front of friends and family,” Levens wrote. “I think our last home series against The University of Chicago stands out to me. We’ve never played them at home before and it will be a fun way to close out the regular season.”

The coach and the returning players alike gave abundant praise to the team’s first years.

“The best part of practices has been seeing the improvements that everybody has made from the fall, especially with our first-year players,” LaMotte wrote. “Being a college athlete is a big adjustment from being a high school athlete and seeing how the younger guys have adjusted and improved has been fun to watch.”

With many returners, the entire Pioneer team should be fun to watch this season. Their first home game is on March 10 against the University of Wisconsin-Superior.

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