Gearing up for another title run
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 14, 2013 12:02
It has been 37 weeks since the Utah State club baseball team won a national championship in June, and the team is finally ready to take the field again.
“We’re really excited about this year,” said club president Garrett Schiffman. “Maybe more so than we were last year, because now we know what we’re capable of.”
The Aggies, currently ranked No. 1 by the National Club Baseball Association, will open the season Feb. 15 against the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls. Head coach Norm Doyle said game is the team’s top priority for now.
“Our first goal is our very next game,” he said. “We’re going to work this spring or winter and just try to take it one game at a time.”
The team returns 12 of last year’s 15 players and has only gotten deeper, Doyle said.
“We have two guys that were All-Americans last year returning and we have a great group of returning players,” Doyle said. “We added some additional players to the roster this year.”
Schiffman said he has very high hopes for the team’s new acquisitions.
“We have a few guys that enrolled in school that played junior college ball in the Midwest,” he said. “Yeah, we celebrated what we did last year, but we’re working hard now. We should fare well.”
One of last year’s strong points was depth and balance at every position, Schiffman said. He said he feels they are even more balanced this time around.
“Last year we were incredibly deep with our pitching and our offensive power, something that led to our success,” Schiffman said. “But I think this year our pitching is definitely going to be our stronghold. That’s not to say we don’t have great defense and good hitters as well. We return five guys that hit over .400 last year, which is pretty amazing.”
Doyle said although the talent is impressive, the team needs a few good bounces to go all the way again.
“I feel talent wise, we’re every bit as good as we were last year, maybe even a little bit better,” he said. “But talent alone does not win championships. You have to mesh as a team, you have to gel, you have to come together and you have to have a little bit of luck.”
Senior Matt Stranski returns as the nation’s home run leader from last year and credits the team’s unity and atmosphere to their success.
“It’s called baseball, it’s a very relaxed atmosphere,” he said. “We have a lot of fun on the team, and the guys on the team they gel real well. Having such a close team really helps.”
Stranski said everyone playing at a high level helps loosen the whole team up.
“The good thing is when you play on a good team, you feel more relaxed,” he said. “I led the nation in home runs, but we had five or six guys that hit over .400, Brad Singer led the nation in doubles and so when you hit around good guys it takes the pressure off of you.”
Schiffman said the schedule should be tough and specifically noted games against Idaho State, Oregon, and Arizona State.
“We scheduled 37-40 games that we feel are going to be tough, competitive games that are going to compel us to be better,” he said.
Stanski said a rematch against Colorado State, whom the Aggies defeated in last year’s NCBA World Series, was circled on his calendar.
“Colorado State’s a good team,” he said. “That’s a team we’re trying to focus on to make a statement.”
Stranski said the team appreciated the support of Cache Valley and the students during last year’s run.
“It was a Cinderella kind of story last year,” he said. “Who would think that Utah State, out of 160 club teams, would come out of the Pacific Northwest and beat teams like Georgia, Texas Tech, and teams like that? It’s just unheard of.”