Baseball hopeful for post season play
February presented a rocky start for the Augustana baseball team, which won just four of its first 11 games. Now the team is sitting second in the NSIC with a 24-15 record. Since the start of the season the Vikings have fought their way back to stay near the top of the NSIC.
They still have a number of games in front of them before they can consider the possibility of postseason play. Although postseason is not a long way off, the team still has 14 games remaining—including a four-game series against NSIC-leading Mankato to end the year.
Junior pitcher Jacob Blank believes the team has all of the pieces needed for a strong finish, but his teammates will have to work together to get the results they want.
According to Blank, it will be hard to win a conference title, Augustana has the talent to pursue the goal as long as the team continues to show up and find a way to win games.
“To win a conference title we’re just going to have to put all the pieces together that I know we have,” Blank said. “We have the talent on our hitting side, pitching side and fielding, everything is there. We just have to put it all together and just make a run at consistent games, it’s all about showing up and being competitive every single day.”
Blank threw a no-hitter in AU’s 2-0 win over Minnesota-Duluth Saturday. He is just the eighth pitcher in Augustana baseball history to do so.
Senior right fielder Patrick O’Donnell was the Preseason NSIC Player of the Year said a desire to fulfill that potential has helped him to focus on the positives rather than getting stuck on what could have been throughout the season.
“The main goal of the team this year has been trusting the process,” O’Donnell said. “This means focusing every day on the things we are working on, knowing that things may not come around 100 percent right away, but continuing to move in a positive direction.”
O’Donnell believes the team has a chance of making it to the NCAA Regional Tournament, but the biggest obstacle is not worrying about other teams in the conference. The Vikings need to hone their own skills “rather than looking on the outside” and bringing that into the team’s mentality.
He believes that although Augustana struggled at the beginning, he thinks they’re “in a really good place right now” near the end of the regular season.
“We need to win a lot of games heading into the last weekend,” said head coach Tim Huber. “We’ll play Mankato, they’re obviously the team sitting in first and kind of running away with it right now. They only have [three] losses [in conference play], so everyone else is kind of just fighting for the middle of the pack. For us to have a chance at the end is going to be winning a lot of games and then having a really good weekend against Mankato.”
It wil be tough as, through Wednesday, Mankato has a five-game lead in the conference.
The Vikings still have four opponents before they see the Mavericks, so only time will tell if the team has what it takes to win the conference title.