Members of the Augustana baseball team are going into the 2020 season as veterans, with over half of the players being upperclassmen.
Head coach Tim Huber, who was named 2019 NSIC Coach of the Year, is hopeful this will give the team an advantage.
“We have been fairly young the past couple years and it will be nice to have more guys who know what to expect and have that experience,” Huber said.
This year, the team is focusing on moving past obstacles. With a 43-16 record in 2019, the Vikings claimed the No. 1 seed in the Central Region and won the NCAA Central Region I title.
Augustana ended its 2019 season with a fall to Central Missouri in the Central Super Regional, which prevented the Vikings from claiming their second national championship.
Senior shortstop Sam Baier said he is excited to see how the team will come back from last year’s near win.
“We have a team motto of ‘good,’ which means just getting past the bad things that happen,” Baier said.
For senior pitcher Caleb Stratmoen, this means the team needs to narrow its focus to each game they play.
“As a team, it’s not so much about focusing on one side of the ball or the other; it’s whatever’s working that day,” Stratmoen said. “Maybe the pitchers are struggling so the offense steps up, or if the bats aren’t too hot that day then the pitchers are gonna go out there and do our thing.”
Both Stratmoen and Baier said they don’t feel pressure to perform well, but do want to help build that team culture for the younger players.
While the freshmen and sophomores have plenty of players to look up to, Huber said junior infielder Jordan Barth, senior outfielder Riley Johnson, junior pitcher Tanner Brown and senior pitcher Max Steffens will be the likely stand-outs for the 2020 season.
“We should have a very good blend of an explosive offense and dependable pitching,” Huber said. “We have some athletes who can run, which helps on the bases, as well as on defense. Time will tell if our offense is capable of hitting for more power this year. The potential is there.”
So far, the team is 4-4 in their preseason games, losing their most recent game 7-3 to Emporia State.
Stratmoen and Baier encourage the community to come support the team.
“The more fans we have, the more fun our games will be. It will pump us up to play and get after it,” Baier said.
The team’s next preseason game will be Feb. 29 in Bolivar, Missouri, where the Vikings will face off against the Southwest Baptist University Bearcats. Their regular season will begin with a home game on March 14 against St. Cloud State.