People often say that baseball season starts when the Super Bowl game clock hits zero. But for the Wabash baseball squad, preparation has been in full swing for months.
The weather has limited practice to the confines of Knowling Fieldhouse, but starting on Friday, February 17, the squad will suit up for their first game against the Augustana College Vikings at the campus of Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee.
The 2022 season was a ‘tale of two teams.’ In their first 14 games, the Little Giants went 12-2, with half of those games taking place in Tucson, Arizona, over midsemester break. But after a honeymoon start, the squad met their match against mostly conference opponents during a 25-game run that saw them win a mere eight games. They suffered season sweeps at the hands of conference rivals Wooster, Allegheny (now an affiliate member), Denison and DePauw. They also lost their last seven consecutive games of the season and were outscored by 36 runs during that stretch.
On the season, the squad went just 4-14 against the conference and 20-19 overall. So despite the overall winning record, it would be hard to call last year’s performance a success. This year’s team will look to build on the stellar offense that posted an average of seven runs per game, while addressing weaknesses in pitching that gave up similarly high numbers.
“I’m really excited for the pitchers we have returning,” said pitcher Derek Haslett ’23. “We’ve got a few veteran guys returning that are really experienced and have pitched well. I’m also really excited to see the freshmen. We need the young guys to step up and give us good innings out of the pen.”
On offense, the team will take the field without one of last year’s anchors, Austin Simmers ’22, who hit .356 with 31 steals while appearing in every game. Luckily, the power middle of the lineup will be shored up by Kamden Earley ’24 and AJ Reid ’24, who hit .363 and .361, respectively. Earley expects the offense to continue as a strength.
“I think our offense is going to be solid,” said Earley. “We‘ve got nine runs through the lineup. Hopefully we will see the sticks light up for our first weekend.”
This year’s NCAC returning champions are the Denison Big Red, who topped Wittenberg with a 16-2 conference record while dominating at 35-11 overall. The Big Red have held the top spot in conference and overall records each year since 2019. They will be a tough opponent for the Little Giants when they face off for a doubleheader on Saturday, April 1.
“I’m really excited to see the freshmen. We need the young guys to step up and give us good innings out of the pen.”– Derek Haslett ’23
The Little Giants will face DePauw twice this season, with both games occurring in a doubleheader at Wabash on Tuesday, April 4. The Tigers were 22-17 last season—just two games better than the Little Giants—but with a similar ‘tale of two teams’ arc that saw the Tigers scuffle early on but win 12 of their final 14 games.
Given their inverse season arcs, were Wabash’s losses the product of two similarly talented teams peaking at different times, or of the Tigers simply being the better team? We will look to this year’s matchups on home ground for the answer.
One thing is certain though: both teams will look to find consistency this season. And with it, to establish the kind of formidable squad that carried the Little Giants to the NCAA Division III finals back in 2018, where they came up short against Wooster.
“The guys put in a lot of hard work in the offseason,” said Head Baseball Coach Jake Martin. “They had a good fall and they’re a close group. We’re excited to line it up against somebody else and see how it plays out. I’m really proud of this group.”
A total of 10 games will take place at Wabash in the month of April alone, a fact that promises fans a number of opportunities to enjoy the spring weather with America’s pastime. Until then, however, fans will be bundling up to watch a vigorous roster of Wabash men step into the batter’s box and swing us into spring.