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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Feven Getachew
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Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
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Baseball gets green for the first time this year

By Darwin Manning

While pro athletes head down to Florida and Arizona to begin their season, Grinnell’s baseball squad kicks things off in the snow-filled Midwest. The Pioneers will face off against Westminster College at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow in Fulton, Mo. for their first game and then play Central College later that day at 2 p.m. On Sunday, the Pioneers will play a doubleheader versus the same two opponents. Grinnell Baseball is coming off a superb season that unfortunately did not have the ending many of the players were hoping for, after going 22-14 but losing its last four games to conference opponents, St. Norbert and Monmouth.
“It was hard to finish such a successful season with losses at the Conference Championship,” Pitcher Ryan Harris ’10 said. “I honestly feel that we were the best team in the conference and we will be this year too.”
The Pioneers hope to redeem themselves this season by successfully bringing home the Midwest Conference Championship.
“Our goal for this season is the conference championship,” Harris said. “We got to the tournament last year, but came home disappointed. That’s not going to happen this year. This is our year.”
Last year, the team graduated several important seniors including Gary Kahn ’09, Ben Mendoza ’09 and Brett Maloney ’09. As a result the roster will be young with only two juniors, and nine seniors out of 35 players.
“We lost a lot of seniors, and that is somewhat of a concern, as well as Chad Takabuki being our only returning captain,” said Head Coach Tim Hollibaugh.
But with a wealth of first years and second years, Hollibaugh hopes to find someone who can step up to the plate, so to speak.
“The two key positions defensively are going to be first base where we have a number of guys that could fill in and shortstop where we are most likely going to have a first year,” Hollibaugh said.
The four games this weekend will not only be important to start on the right foot, but will also be able to show Hollibaugh which players will be key contributors in game situations.
The Pioneers will face their first action this weekend against an opponent, as well as their first experience playing outdoors in several months.
“Unfortunately, with Grinnell’s stupendous weather record, we haven’t been outside since the fall,” Harris said. “We’ll have to adjust to game conditions rather quickly, but I know we are ready for it.”
This will be something that the Pioneers will most likely have to battle for much of the first month of the season, as Iowa’s long and arduous winter marches on.
“I have a real concern in the weather,” Hollibaugh said. “I can tell this going to be a battle all year and a byproduct of that is not being able to get outside.”
Despite the lack of outdoor action, the team feels well prepared, as all second semester they have been practicing and conditioning hard in order to prepare for what promises to be both a physically and mentally demanding schedule.
“We are running harder, conditioning longer and preparing ourselves for a full season,” Harris said. “Last year we might have had a dip in performance during the second half of the season.  That won’t happen this year.”
Coach Hollibaugh also stressed that he has been trying to change up the format of training this semester, by giving the players a break from the constant grind of regular drills.
“I have been trying to add an increased sense of competition amongst the team, through having them wrestle and compete in other forms as well,” Hollibaugh said.
The Pioneers are also looking ahead to their trip to Florida over Spring Break, where they will play some stiff competition.
“We really amped up our Spring Break schedule, we’re playing St. Olaf [College], [the University of] St. Thomas and Calvin [College], which are all ranked and went to the regional last year,” Hollibaugh said.
St. Thomas, in particular, is a team that not only competed in the regional last year, but is the defending champion and this matchup, Hollibaugh believes, will be a confidence boost no matter the outcome.
“Seeing good competition will give us a good idea of where we are as a team and what we need to work on before Conference,” Harris said.

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