WRITTEN BY: GRIFFIN ASELTINE | STAFF WRITER
Following a 33-18 season and a trip to the NCAA Regional, high expectations for the men’s baseball team were inevitable. After an 0-3 start from being swept on the road in Chico State, it seemed as if those high expectations would lead to drastic disappointment.
How does a team with the pressure to repeat their recent success respond?
With an eleven-game winning streak, of course.
Just like that, the Sea Lions sit at an 11-3 record outside of the conference, finding success with sweeps against Cal State LA, Eastern New Mexico, and Concordia (Oregon). They have also outscored their opponents 87-31 this season. Of course, the conference record will end up mattering the most by the season’s end, but for the next week, the team has every right to feel good about itself. PacWest play will begin on Mon- day, March 7.
“These guys work really hard, and this is also one of the best character groups we’ve ever had,” said head coach Joe Schaefer. “They play for each other and with each other. For the most part, they play together on the field really well.”
Schaefer is currently in his ninth season as the Sea Lions’ head coach, and has maintained historical success within
PLNU’s baseball program. His long-term perseverance is perhaps one of the most significant reasons as to why he’s been able to keep the Sea Lions as a consistent contender.
“One pitch at a time, one inning at a time, keep doing what we’ve been do- ing,” said Schaefer. “That’s how we’ve done well up to this point. We need to continue to focus on the process and not look ahead.”
Home-field advantage has also contributed heavily to the current winning streak. The Sea Lions are currently 9-0 at home, but 2-3 on the road, including the opening series against Chico State.
Head coach Joe Schaefer said if the opening series was played at PLNU, the result could have been much different.
“I think if we had opened the season at home against Chico State, we probably would have made a few less mistakes and hit a little better than we did,” said Schaefer. “There’s a ‘comfort’ factor of being at home, and when you visit a new ballpark, you don’t know how the dimensions change the game and how the wind will come into play. Not to mention, you’re playing against a team that is comfortable in their own yard.”
Junior first baseman Ryan Garcia, who is currently 20-for-52 and leading the team with five home runs and 24 runs batted in, was recently recognized as the NCBWA Region Player of the Week. He agreed with Schaefer’s points related to home-field advantage. “Our coaches have told us that we need to ‘own’ our ballpark,” Garcia said. “We practice here everyday, so we should have an advantage when our opponents have to come here.” But of course, the most important factor will be whether or not the team can work well together as a unit over the next couple months. Baseball is an endurance test, and that will prove itself as the road trips come into play.
“The team chemistry has everything to do with it,” said Garcia. “Just play for the player next to you and do the little things right.”
The men’s baseball team will be spending their spring break in Hawaii, but not necessarily for vacation purposes. Their next series, and first within the
PacWest, begins on Monday, March 7 at Hawaii Pacific—a four-game series that consists of two double-headers.
Success has certainly been reached outside of the conference, but the real season is about to begin.
photo by PLNUsealions.com