The Vikings baseball team will begin its NSIC season against Southwest Minnesota State on March 18, going in with an overall record of 11-9 from its non-conference season.
The non-conference season had a slow start with a 1-4 record against the University of Hawaii at Hilo on Feb. 1 through Feb. 4. According to head coach Tim Huber, the team had solid pitching but lacked in hitting.
“Pitching has been pretty steady all the way through, even with the losses,” Huber said. “We were fairly good on the mound. There were a couple games where it wasn’t our best pitching performance in Hawaii but good enough that we would have won if we were hitting better.”
The team has a high number of new players this year, as most of the team graduated last year.
“It is a new team for sure, and at the beginning of the year, I knew it would be hard for everyone to adjust and be back at the caliber that Augie baseball is known for,” junior Kai Taylor said. “Most of my praise goes to the freshmen who have stepped up, performed and took on the challenge. The transition between high school athletics to college is difficult, and some new guys took their opportunity and ran with it.”
The Vikings made a turnaround against Emporia State, winning three of four games on Feb. 18 and Feb. 19. They later completed a four-game sweep against Colorado Christian, bringing the record to 8-5.
Sophomore Trevor Winterstein leads the team in hits and runs so far this season.
“I’ve just tried to have a good approach at the plate and get a pitch that I can hit,” Winterstein said. “So far this year, I’ve been able to do that. I’m hoping that I can continue that into conference play and we can find ways to win games moving forward. We’ve shown signs of success this year, but we need to find a way to consistently succeed.”
During the non-conference season, the team also traveled to North Carolina to play on the same field where the Vikings won the 2018 Division II World Series National Championship. There, the team came out on top against Dominican University with a score of 7-2.
“The year we won the national championship in 2018, all of those guys have graduated now,” Huber said. “We’re playing really good teams and part of the reason we are going down there is also playing on the field where we aspire to get to every year.”
With its final stretch over spring break, the team played three non-conference games in Illinois against Quincy. All three were losses for the Vikings, with scores of 7-2, 7-2 and 10-0.
“Overall in Illinois we didn’t play our best and it really opened our eyes to what it takes to become a good team moving forward in the season,” said Winterstein.
According to Huber, the players should now have some preparation going into the conference season.
“Anytime conference play starts, there is more familiarity with the team and who they have returning and how they play,” Huber said. “Compared to earlier seasons, a lot of these teams we haven’t played before or often. You can prepare a little bit more with conference teams, so when we play SMSU, we will know what to expect.”