Rocky week for baseball
Led by head coach Brian Billings, a former Puget Sound alumnus and baseball player with 10 years of coaching experience at Puget Sound under his belt, Logger baseball is looking to capitalize on the many talents of its dynamic mixture of veteran players and evolving young stars.
Last season, the baseball team struggled to find its rhythm, finishing the 2012 season with a 10-28-1 (.269) record, including a 6-18 NWC (.250) finish, putting the Loggers at seventh in the conference. This season the Loggers have returned with a talented group of players who are intent upon improving.
“We expect to compete for a Northwest Conference championship, but our focus is on the process of getting better every day and being disciplined about staying in the moment. The NWC is one of the best Division III baseball conferences in the country, so we can’t afford to get ahead of ourselves,” Billings said.
Loggers baseball began the 2013 season with a convincing sweep of St. Martin’s University. Game one on Saturday, Feb. 9 featured a shutout on the mound thanks to senior Matt Robinson (Lafayette, Calif.) and junior Jarrod Beiser (Cupertino, Calif.).
This superb pitching performance combined with an overpowering offensive effort, led by juniors Christian Carter (San Diego, Calif.) and Jeff Walton (Carmichael, Calif.), who together scored nine of the team’s twelve runs in the Loggers’ resounding 12-0 victory.
Freshman Nathan Backes (Seattle, Wash.) also came up big in his first collegiate game, driving in a run on his first at-bat. Puget Sound followed up this victory with two more the next day, coming up big in the doubleheader on Sunday, Feb. 10 with 5-4 and 16-9 victories in game one and game two of the day, respectively.
On Friday, Feb. 15, the Loggers took on Corban (3-0). Corban started off strong, with the first four batters for the Warriors scoring before the first inning was over. Unfortunately, the Loggers couldn’t quite catch up, losing 13-4.
This loss was followed by another double-header on Saturday, Feb. 16. Game one featured an NWC match-up against Lewis and Clark (0-5), which Puget Sound won soundly, 14-0. Robinson and Beiser again combined their pitching efforts to produce another shutout on the mound, while Backes had a good night at the plate, hitting three for four.
The Logger offense came alive even more in the eighth inning, scoring eight runs. Game two featured a rematch against Corban, but the Warriors’ offense put up eight runs by the third inning, a lead that proved insurmountable for the Loggers, who eventually lost the game 16-0.
On Sunday, Sat. 15, the Loggers took on fellow NWC member, Whitworth. It was a close game, with the Loggers fighting back from an early deficit to score a few runs in the last half of the game. Thanks to Whitworth’s Jeremy Druffel’s two-RBI single in the bottom of the eighth, however, the Pirates edged the Loggers 5-3.
“I’ve been really happy with our team so far. The effort and attitude has been outstanding. This team is really invested and it’s fun to watch our young emerging players mixing with our junior and senior classes. We need to pitch a little better and continue to improve defensively and offensively, but we definitely have the necessary talent to make a run,” Billings said.
The Loggers are young, and, like any other team, have areas of their overall game that need work. For one thing, they need to learn how to win consistently, a skill that the Loggers will consistently be improving upon as the season progresses.
“Our goal is to improve from last season. We returned some good players and brought in some talented freshman and we feel like if we keep working hard we have the talent to challenge the top teams in the conference. It is a place that we want to be and we are working hard every day to get there.
“We have showed that we have the ability to play very well and battle with the best team in our conference, but there have also been some games where we have been inconsistent,” said Lucas Stone.
“We want there to be something on the line every weekend. If we’re still competing for the NWC title in our last three weekends and we’re within striking distance of first place, anything can happen. As a player, that’s all you want.
“We are a young team and there is a learning curve, so as the year goes on I expect that we will only continue to improve. It’s way too early to assess what kind of a team we’re going to be, but we’ve got a lot going for us. I’ve never been more excited about a team in my four years at UPS,” Robinson said.
Early on the in season, Logger baseball has proven that they have what it takes to go far this season. “I’d say our team goal this year is to recertify ourselves as one of the top teams NWC and compete for a conference title. Our team has played well thus far.
“We proved to ourselves that we have what it takes to have a successful season by sweeping division II St. Martin’s in our opening weekend. We carried that confidence over to this last weekend in Pasco with a victory over a conference opponent in Lewis & Clark and giving #5 Whitworth a run for their money in a 5-3 loss. We feel we have what it takes to be a force in the NWC this season,” Backes said.