While many students spent last week trying to avoid the snowy weather, the Augustana baseball team was soaking up the sun in Hawaii.
When they weren’t relaxing on the beach, the trip allowed the team to gain additional play early in the season and gave team members a chance to get outside and prove their skills.
“The main goals of the trip were to learn as much as we can about our team while playing a very competitive opponent,” assistant coach Bryan Nikkel said. “The trip also is to prepare us for a very rigorous conference schedule.”
The NCAA allows baseball teams at Division II schools to play 50 games each season. However, the nine games played in Hawaii do not count toward this total, so the team gained extra practice early in the season.
“This trip was great for our team because we normally are not able to get games in until the end of February, if we are lucky,” senior Eric Docken said.
Through these early games, the team can pinpoint areas of weakness and work to improve over the rest of the season.
“We knew going into Hawaii we would be at a disadvantage because both teams have been able to practice outside for months, while we are stuck in our baseball facility and Elmen Center,” Docken said. “Our pitching was the only area where we struggled more than we expected.”
Even in times of weakness, the baseball players worked as a team, filling in where they were needed.
“It was good for our guys to see these weaknesses and I think they are set to improve on them,” Nikkel said.
According to Docken, players do not have set positions this year, so both freshmen and upperclassmen are working together in different combinations to see what works best for the team as a whole.
“We want to have 39 guys that are capable of stepping up at any moment when their name gets called,” junior Jason Rasmussen said. “We lost some guys with some strong leadership abilities, and we are hoping that this year we have some strong leaders that can emerge.”
One emerging player is freshman Zach Dibble. In Hawaii, Dibble held his own on the field, and he is one of the many strong freshmen on the team, according to Nikkel.
“He will continue to improve as he gets more innings and could find himself a starting position in our pitching rotation,” Docken said.
With these first few games finished, the team still has much to look forward to in the rest of the season.
“We also want to get better game by game and prepare ourselves [for] each game like its our last,” Rasmussen.