baseball 1
Sophomore, Ryan Mueller, first baseman for the Spartans waits in the batter box, ready to swing, as the pitch comes in low at his knees. 
Photo Provided by Manchester University Athletics

Baseball Season Starts Off Strong with 1-1 Record

Chloe Leckrone

Manchester University’s baseball team began its season on Sunday, March 1 in Westfield, IN, where they played a doubleheader against Wittenberg University and Heidelberg University.

The team’s first game on Sunday was against Wittenberg, which MU won 11- 4. The game had a slow start but eventually turned in Manchester’s favor. “All of our pitchers were really good, so that was really promising to see,” said Brett Kron, a junior finance major and catcher for the team. “They really attacked hitters and gave us a chance until we started scoring some runs.”

The game against Heidelberg resulted in a loss for Manchester, with a final score of 3-0. In the second game, “offense was stalled by Heidelberg’s pitching staff,” Kron said. “But all-in-all it was a good defensive day for us as a team.” Kron also appreciated the positive energy of the team, which he felt was lacking in the previous season.

Head Baseball Coach Rick Espeset agreed that overall the games went well for the team. “We played clean baseball and made only a couple of errors, and both of those teams are good teams,” Espeset said. In the second game, Espeset gathered that the team struck out a lot, and is focusing on how they can cut that down in their next games.

Playing two games back-to-back is a common occurrence in baseball and an aspect of the game that players must get used to, but that does not mean it is always easy. “For upperclassmen, it’s easier because you’ve been doing it for two, three, four years now, but for the younger guys it can definitely get hard,” said Lewis Dilts, a senior accounting and finance major, and catcher and pitcher for the team. “You just have to find ways to stick with it, whether it’s tracking certain pitches or focusing on one aspect of the game, that can help you benefit throughout the rest of the year.”

Kron agreed that paying attention is the best way to stay energized during a game, but also acknowledged that there are times when doubleheaders take their toll, “especially on cold Saturdays or Sundays, and you’re definitely tired by the end of it, but you get used to it.”

This season, the team has five seniors, seven juniors, fifteen sophomores, and thirteen first-years. Coach Espeset described the team’s lineup as “pretty typical” if not “a little more balanced than usual.” However, Espeset believes that having the best players out in the game matters more than the number of players from each year. The team also welcomed two new volunteer assistant coaches this season: Josh Brock, a former Manchester student and assistant coach, and Doug Baker.

The team has five captains, including Kron and Dilts. This is the first year either have been captains, and they are both happy to take on the responsibility. “I think anybody can be a leader on the team whether you’re a captain or not,” Dilts said. “But it definitely shows that people look up to us and feel comfortable coming to us if they have problems or if they want to talk about baseball or even things outside of baseball.”

At a captains’ dinner a few weeks ago, Coach Espeset made a comment that stuck with Kron. Espeset told the team captains that “we were voted captains based on who we are, not who people think we can be.” Kron does not want to change himself just because he is a captain and hopes to continue “being the middleman between the players and the coaching staff.”

With each new season comes a new team that players and coaches alike must adjust to. While this adjustment is not without its difficulties, Kron and Dilts find it fairly routine at this point in their baseball careers. “To an extent, it can be a little difficult because you have to feel out the personalities of the incoming group,” Kron said. “But we feel like the baseball team is one of the closest teams on campus. We always eat together and hang out with each other on weekends, so by the time the season rolls around we’ve already been consistently hanging out for four or five months.”

Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Dilts is most excited about the closeness of the team. “A lot of the guys are extroverted, and a lot of people are connecting really well this year, whether that be freshmen with upper-classmen or friendships that have already been made growing closer,” Dilts said.

Kron is looking ahead in anticipation of the team’s trip to Florida. The team will leave on Friday, March 13 and will be there over spring break to play against St. Michael’s College. “It will be a fun trip,” Kron said. “We’ll get to spend a little time down in the sunshine and warmth before we come back to the cold.”

Manchester’s team was not picked to finish very high in the conference, which has many team members looking forward to proving those who doubt them wrong. “People really aren’t expecting us to do much, and I think that fired up a lot of guys to show people what we can do,” Kron said. “We all believe that we can be a top three team in the conference this year.