Vikings’ baseball heads to playoffs with dominant offense
Every weekend, Western’s men’s baseball team takes the field to prove its worth. Strikes fly from the pitcher’s hand as the team works in unison for the ultimate goal — a national championship. So far this season, the Vikings have outscored its conference opponents 162-48 and will face its toughest rivals yet at the regional competition in Boise, Idaho starting on May 13.
“At the start of the season, I was pretty confident that our team was going to go pretty far,” sophomore catcher Forrest Longanecker said. “We had a huge opportunity to build on last season.”
Last year the team finished one spot out of qualifying for the regional playoffs and were looking to build on that performance.
This season the Vikings ended the regular season with a record of 15-6, earning them first place in the Northern Pacific North Conference of the National Club Baseball Association and the third seed at the regional playoffs.
“To get to nationals, we obviously have to go out there and perform, but I think we have the group of guys to do it.”
Senior utility player and pitcher Kyle Pegram
Senior second baseman Nate Wilham credits the team’s depth of hitting talent for the the Vikings’ offensive explosion.
“We have a very balanced lineup. All of the guys ﹘ the one through nine hitters ﹘ can hit the ball really well,” Wilham said. Patience has been key to this. “We’re having a lot more professional at-bats. We’re not up there swinging at the first pitch. We’re working the count. We’re making sure we’re seeing good pitches.”
With a positive run differential over 100, it isn’t difficult to see the Vikings offense has been putting in work this season. However, for the Vikings, the real difference hasn’t come from its bats.
“Our hitting has been pretty good all year but, surprisingly, our pitchers have thrown really well,” Longanecker said. “That was the only thing I was really worried about — the depth of our pitchers, they have really stepped it up.”
Coming into the season, the Vikings were uncertain who the team’s pitchers would be, let alone how they would perform. With several key pitchers having graduated, the rotation was team’s biggest question mark.
After losing three straight non-conference games to start the year, the Vikings have not lost a single series.
“As a team, I think we have really come together. The team chemistry is there and I think that’s a huge factor in our success,” senior utility player and pitcher Kyle Pegram said. Pegram said the club environment helps keep things from getting stagnant. “Everyone has a love for the game and enjoys being out there on the field every weekend.”
If the Vikings can find success at regionals, it will be on to nationals.
The Vikings will face the Utah State University Aggies at 3 p.m. on Friday, May 13, in its first game of the double elimination tournament. Western enters the four team tournament as the number three seed.
“We will see much better competition and we’ll see where we stack up. I like our odds,” Pegram said. “To get to nationals, we obviously have to go out there and perform, but I think we have the group of guys to do it.”