Last year, they were division champions but lost the regional championship. This year, the Western men’s baseball team aim to advance even further.
With eight seniors who graduated from last year’s team, a lot of younger players have had to step up. The team hasn’t been to nationals since 2013 and hopes to return this season.
Senior shortstop and outfielder Kyle Pegram said player development is how the club is continuing their success.
“The seniors really have to lead the way and kind of show the younger guys this is how we do it. That’s what we do,” Pegram said. “Just bring a family environment to the game and try to have the best chemistry we can.”
Sophomore catcher Christopher Smith said nationals are certainly on their minds and they know it’s something they can accomplish.
“We definitely have the set of guys to do it,” Smith said. “We know we have the talent, so really that’s what we’re striving toward: the ultimate goal, to get to nationals.”
The team started off the season with three games against Eastern Washington University, coming out with a record of 2-1. Western is tied for first in the division with Gonzaga University. Smith said Gonzaga has a strong program and always puts up a good fight.
Senior head coach Conner Celli said they aren’t one of those teams that are just out there to have fun.
“It’s all about making it happen throughout the game and being up and cheering on each other.”
Conner Celli, head coach
“We’re definitely a talented group of individuals that make stuff happen,” Celli said.
On Saturday, April 1 and Sunday, April 2, Western continued their season with three games against Washington State University. The Vikings swept the series 3-0, improving their overall record in the conference to 5-1.
“It’s all about making it happen throughout the game and being up and cheering on each other,” Celli said. “That’s something we definitely need to work on and I can see that improving.”
Coming into the season, Pegram said hitting was one of their weaknesses because they had lost some of their “big bats” at the top of their lineup, but after their series sweep against WSU, things are looking up. He said the younger players are stepping up and the seniors are a big source of strength, especially the pitching staff.
The team is working on staying focused and making sure the younger players are comfortable, Smith said.
“We play a real competitive league,” Smith said. “Losing one game could completely change the rest of the season and determine our success. Remembering every single game means as much as the next; I think that’s definitely going to be big for us, especially when the postseason comes around.”