The Indiana Wesleyan University baseball team is starting this season almost from scratch. The team lost 13 players after last season, including six of the nine players who recorded at least 10 RBIs and Crossroads League Honorable Mention starting pitcher Michael Caley (alumnus ‘13).
The Wildcats started their season by losing all three games in a series against Missouri Baptist University Feb. 20-21. Missouri Baptist is ranked No. 4 in the NAIA and made it to the NAIA World Series last season.
Head coach Chad Newhard said the Wildcats saw this series as a means to learn their strengths and weaknesses.
“I like to play really good competition, and I think it’s good for our team to see where we are at and to see what we need to do better,” Newhard said.
The Wildcats then traveled down to Tucson, Ariz. for their spring break and played some of the top teams in the NAIA, bringing their record to 1-10. Pitcher Jon Keesling (so) said these opponents are preparing the Wildcats well for the conference season.
“It’s still early, so the biggest thing we have to do is stay together as a team and continue to buy in to what the coaching staff wants us to do,” Keesling said in an email. “If we continue to better ourselves everyday, this rough patch will have no significance at the end of the season.”
The Wildcats have played in several close games, falling to Northwestern (Iowa) 2-3 and 2-5, and Arizona Christian 2-4 and 3-4. The team pulled out a 3-2 walk-off win over Dakota Wesleyan (S.D.). Unfortunately, IWU has also been on the losing end of blowouts against Missouri Baptist 2-18 and 2-12, and Concordia (Ill.) 2-11.
Despite the team’s losing record, first baseman Jacob Murphy (sr) said the young players are getting good playing time and still figuring out where they fit in and how they will contribute.
“We have a lot of potential because we have a lot of good young talent,” Murphy said. “But we just have to be patient because there is a lot of youth.”
Pitcher Kennan Barnett, one of the seven freshmen on the team, and said he is excited to see what the team can do this season.
“I don’t know what the team has been like in the past but I think we are a really close-knit group,” Barnett said. “We have a lot of solid guys and I think we can do some really great things.”
The Wildcats still have barely even made a dent into their season, and hope to turn things around the rest of the way. Newhard has high expectations for them as they start conference play March 20 against Spring Arbor University (Mich.).
“Our goal this time of year is to continue to get better,” Newhard said. “When we get back from Arizona, we want to keep improving our play as we head into conference, which ultimately. are our most important games of the season.”