BY MICHELLE KIM – CENTO WRITER
The Centre Men’s Baseball team began their season with several snow-induced cancellations as well as some stiff competition from nationally ranked teams. The Colonels fell 8-2 against the Rhodes College Lynxes, ranked 14th in the nation. The scores were made in the fourth and eighth inning by sophomores Andrew Olson and Greyson Evans.
The second loss of 11-1 was to the Birmingham Southern University Panthers, ranked 7th in the country. First-year Sullivan Smoak scored on an error during the fifth inning. Both of those teams remain undefeated in conference play this season.
“Our first six games [are] probably our toughest, since we’re playing against teams ranked in the top 25 in our nation,” first-year catcher outfielder Ben Coates said.
“We’re frustrated. We know we lost to two good teams so far, but that’s no excuse for losing how closely we did. If a few small plays go our way, we’ll pick up some wins. But that’s baseball, and there’s no such thing as moral victories. We have to double down between games to get better,” junior outfielder Charlie Grigsby said.
The team’s positivity, rather than discouragement, allowed the members to prepare for the games to come. “After losing, the first thing that my team and I think about is how we can prepare differently to win in the future, and try to stay positive and keep things in perspective,” sophomore first-baseman Greyson Evans said.
“If anything, the first few losses [were] more of an encouragement for us to push ourselves even harder,” first-year pitcher and first-baseman Casey Klein said.
The team was quick to redeem itself on Wednesday at their game against the Transylvania University Pioneers. They kicked off the game with three scores in the first inning, made by Olson, senior Trey Litsey, and sophomore Alex Richardson. Smoak’s score in the fourth inning was quickly followed by another two from Litsey and Richardson again. The game ended with a win of 6-4.
“This group has great team chemistry and a good work ethic, plus quite a bit of talent. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be successful, especially with how hard each guy works every day. We will continue to play each pitch and each inning to the best of our ability and to let the results take care of themselves,” Evans said.
Adjusting to the addition of new members can be a difficult endeavor for the beginning of any sports team’s season, but it is inevitable. “Our [first-years] this season are a talented group of guys with a good collective work ethic,” Evans said. “We have a couple [first-year] pitchers who have already seen action and a few position players who get a good number of bats. We need those guys to perform for us to be successful as a team.”
Not surprisingly, becoming SAA conference champions is the team’s main objective for the season.
“There is no question that the SAA is one of the best DIII baseball conferences in the country. Every weekend we are tested with a quality opponent. It makes it tough at times but at the end of the day, as a competitor, you want to be tested against the best. We have been right there with some of the best teams in the country this year. We just have to find a way to get over the hump and start winning those games. We are definitely capable,” junior pitcher Rob Caudill said.
“Of course it is important that we improve and have a lot of fun while we’re at it, but the goal is to win. We’re in a tough conference, and we’ve had setbacks, but there’s no excuse not to win as much as possible,” Grigsby said.
Due to game cancellations from the snow, the Colonels have played the least amount of games of SAA conference teams so far. The team continued practices on those days but they face a bigger challenge in facing teams with more on-field experience during this season so far.
The team has been spending a majority of their time at their new hitting facility — the Fishman Center, donated by the father of a Centre College Baseball alum.
“To stay sharp and improve during the season, we’re relying heavily on the new Fishman Center for hitting and for pitchers to throw bullpens, especially with all this bad weather,” Evans said.
According to junior infielder Matt Touhy, practicing at the Fishman Center has proved to be highly effective, considering the strength and improvement that he has seen in the team’s pitching this season.
Although the focus of the season will generally be towards the all of the conference games, every single game is just as important to these players. “I believe that people learn more from failure than they do with success. The most important game will always just be the next one. With this is mind and our heads in the game, I think we will be well on our way to becoming champions,” Klein said.
The team put in countless hours of training for months in preparation for the 2015 season. For the entirety of their off-season, their training regimen included daily weightlifting and practice groups. The players currently commit to daily three hour-long practices, with only Mondays off.
Aside from all the physical training that is going into the team’s practices, the team members also made sure to incorporate more constructivism during their team meetings. “We get together after practice every day as a group, and have made big strides towards being better as a team since last fall, especially in the weight room,” Evans said.
The team suffered a devastating 18-3 loss against the Hendrix College Warriors this past Sunday and fell 7-1 to the Thomas Moore College Tommy Mo on Tuesday. The Colonels will begin their spring break playing the Penn State Erie, the Behrend College Lions on March 21.