By Tim Alford
Over the weekend, the baseball team concluded their fall training which senior catcher Tim Heinmiller said had a much more competitive atmosphere this year.
Heinmiller said the four weeks of training during the fall, nicknamed “fall ball,” began with tryouts.
While the team has had tryouts every year, he said the team has only had 30-35 guys out in the past and this year the team had almost 50 guys.
“So the tryout felt more like a tryout, as the coaches had many more kids to see,” Heinmiller said.
Heinmiller said the number of players at the tryout helped the players to work even harder to earn a spot on the team.
“I think this was good for the team, as it created a more competitive atmosphere, and I also feel that this was necessary in order to get a good first impression of the freshmen we brought in,” Heinmiller said.
Tyler Mott, the head coach of the baseball team, said the competition served as a motivator.
“More competition forces players to step their game and effort up during practices,” Mott said. “It helps us coaches evaluate and take notice of the players who consistently work hard and want to compete for time.”
Heinmiller said the rest of fall ball consisted of four practices per week.
“One practice is an actual practice where we go over the nuances of baseball, such as bunt coverage, pick up moves, and communication,” he said. “The other practices are intra-squad scrimmages.”
Heinmiller said fall ball ends with the team separating into two teams and playing games against each other. He said this series, known as “Red/Black,” is played for the annual bragging rights.
Mott said the coaches will communicate with the players on what they need to do to make themselves better to prepare for the spring.
“The guys worked extremely hard this fall and competed consistently,” he said. “We will be working all winter with them laying out their expectations and roles.”
Heinmiller said Mott will give the team a weightlifting program and conditioning program to do over the winter. He said the conditioning program will focus on speed, agility, and explosiveness.
“This year, we will need to be a fast and scrappy team, so the conditioning will be important to allow us to stay strong throughout the season,” he said.
Senior shortstop Zach Bott said the winter training period is important for the team
“During the season, it is hard to condition and lift because you are playing two games during the week and four times on the weekend, so this is the time when we need to get stronger so we can make it throughout the season,” he said.
Mott said the team has most of the pitching staff back from last season as well as some experienced players in the infield and outfield.
“We will expect a lot from those returners, as we will count on them to help the guys who don’t have as much college game experience,” Mott said. “They will have to be good leaders each and every day for us.”
Heinmiller said that while the team has some upperclassmen who will be returning to take some spots, some freshmen will also fight to get some playing time.
Bott said these freshmen are full of talent and many will be major contributors right away.
Heinmiller said he has some goals for the team this year.
“I believe that this year we have a very realistic shot to win the NCAC and make it to the NCAA tournament for the first time in my four years here,” Heinmiller said.
“However, we still have a lot of work to do to get to this point. We need to work hard this off-season and we need to come back focused and hungry in the spring.”
Bott said he has some goals for both the team and himself.
“As a team, I think our goals are obviously to win the conference and go to regionals but I think more importantly it is to get better every day,” Bott said. “Personally, one of my biggest goals is to become a better leader.”
“Being a senior and playing for the last three years, I have been through a lot of the growing pains that the younger guys are going to go through in the coming months. So I want to influence the team and especially the young guys to keep their heads up and keep grinding every day.”
The baseball team’s first scheduled game is against Transylvania University on March 2.