The first three games of spring training did not go how the Vikings planned.
After losing a close opening game 10-7 to Portland State University, the Western baseball team lost both games in a two-game series against the Okanagan College Coyotes. During the series the Coyotes outscored the Vikings 19-2.
Although the 2016 season for the Vikings started out a little rocky, a three-game sweep of Seattle University has gotten the Vikings back on track. The series showed how well the Vikings are capable of playing by highlighting a one-hit shutout performance from pitcher Ethan Weller.
The series against Okanagan College may have been the wake-up call the team needed.
“It’s something to learn from,” said Kevin McShane, Western senior and head coach.
Senior center fielder Nate Anderson said starting the game with energy has been one of the team’s greatest struggles. “We can come out a little flat sometimes at the start of the game,” Anderson said. Anderson said it can be hard to start off the season against a varsity team like Okanagan College, who had played around 20 games prior to their series against Western.
“There’s no real hierarchy,”
Head coach, Kevin McShane
While the team regularly spends time in the batting cages and works to reduce the number of pitching errors in a game, early struggles have shown the Vikings the team must focus on fundamentals.
“[We must focus on] doing the little things right and scoring one run at a time,” senior outfielder Josh LaRussa said.
The Vikings had its final spring training games against Skagit Valley College rained out. The team hopes the mojo they found against Seattle University can carry over once conference play begins.
LaRussa believes the team’s chemistry has been a key part of its successful turnaround. The team has been getting better at picking each other up and striving to make sure every player is having fun and working hard, LaRussa said.
“If we come out every game and are excited to play and we play hard, I think we’re going to win games,” Larussa said.
Although every season brings new players, the majority of this team have been together for quite some time — Anderson, McShane, and LaRussa have all played together for over two years.
Part of the chemistry comes from the team being student run, McShane said. Working alongside the student coaches rather than beneath them has led to a more cooperative and less authoritative relationship between coaches and players.
“There’s no real hierarchy,” McShane said.
A lot of luck and hard work could bring them to the World Series this year in Kentucky, Anderson said. The talent on the roster, such as pitcher Ethan Weller and catcher Forrest Longanecker, as well as the team chemistry could propel them to win their division and move through regionals, he said.
“It’s possible. We have a good amount of talent and if we can come together correctly — if things break our way, we could make it there,” Anderson said.
The Vikings begin conference play at home at 7:30 p.m. April 2, against the University of Idaho Vandals.