BASEBALL TEAM PREVIEW
After a long and eventful offseason, the Logger baseball team opens up another season starting at Pomona-Pitzer on Feb.6.
Coming off their best record since 2011 (17-19 overall, 14-10 NWC) and winning 10 of their last 12 games last year, the team entered the offseason with high expectations and optimism for the next year. However, in June an unexpected change came to the program, as former head coach Brian Billings resigned from his position. Billings was replaced by Jeff Halstead, a Puget Sound alumni and the offensive coordinator for the Loggers football team. However, because of Halstead’s obligations to the football team he was not around the baseball team for many parts of the fall offseason program.
“We have a really great group of seniors this year that while I was busy with football in the fall helped facilitate all the workouts,” Halstead said.
This senior class is led by the ace of the pitching staff Steven Wagar (3-3 record, 11 GS, 4.06 ERA, 71 IP, 58Ks, Yakima, Washington) and All-NWC First Team centerfielder Connor Savage (.313 BA, 10 RBI, 36 R, 10 SB, Bothell, Washington).
“Winning conference is the ultimate goal and we think we have the talent to be able to compete to do that,” Savage said. This talent includes a strong junior class, with three All-NWC Second Team players in 1st baseman Nate Backes (.326 BA, 27 RBI, 27 R, 5 HR, Seattle, Washington), catcher Nick Funyak (.307 BA, 16 RBI, 10 R, 5 2B, Billings, Montana) and 2nd basemen Chris Zerio (.354 BA, 18 RBI, 17 R, 5 2B, Pleasanton, California). Being both talented and experienced in the field will be huge for the Loggers, who will rely on far fewer first year players and underclassmen to immediately contribute as position players than in years past. Halstead said he expects first year James DeJesus (Mililani, Hawaii) and first year Cal Muramaru (Honolulu, Hawaii) to compete for playing time at one of the three outfield spots, but aside from that, he plans on counting on veteran players to fill out the rest of the field.
The pitching staff is noticeably younger. Wagar and sophomore Collin Maier (4-4 record, 8 GS, 3.93 ERA, 52.2 IP, 41 Ks, Billings, Montana) are two stable parts of the rotation but Halstead said it is likely a first year player will have to step up into the third starting spot. The bullpen will consist mostly of younger and less experienced players and was described by Halstead as “talented but unproven.”
The schedule will be very challenging, with the Loggers taking on the tenth-ranked team in the nation in Cal Lutheran (d3baseball.com) in a two-game series on Feb.7 and playing the first of four games versus fourth-ranked Linfield (d3baseball.com) on Feb.14.
Overall, both Savage and Halstead agreed that if the team can improve upon its game-to-game consistency the team will be exactly where it wants to be. The Loggers are aiming to finish in the top four spots in conference in order to play in a four-team playoff for a bid to the College World Series. With the Loggers finishing fourth in conference last year, the team is confident that it can match and exceed its previous performance.