PLNU’s men’s baseball team is entering the final stretch of pre-season preparation for the spring season.
With last season being their first year competing in NCAA Division II they held an overall record of 26-24 and a conference record of 22-14.
The odds look promising for the coming season.
“Last year was our first year playing a Division II schedule,” said head coach Joe Schaefer. “It was a learning experience for us seeing new teams, new facilities and learning what this level of baseball is all about. I think we have a pretty good idea of who we are as a team this and how we will be able to compete in this conference.”
Tyler Nordgren, senior third baseman, said that while still transitioning into Division II, the team feels comfortable in the higher level of competition.
“I don’t think it feels like a transition anymore,” said Nordgren. “My expectation is to go out, compete and win a conference championship; I would be disappointed if we weren’t at least in the hunt.”
With a team made largely of returning players, including eight seniors, the dynamic of the team is better than ever, according to Clint Harwick, senior shortstop.
“We’re definitely one unit this year compared to previous seasons,” said Harwick. “I think we’re really solid on defense and we’re scrappy at hitting so we’ll put runs on the board. Then we’ll just leave it up to our pitching staff to shut the door.”
But making the transition to the PacWest Conference has more challenges than just the higher level of competition; NCAA rules dictate that teams can only have limited amount of practices in the off season, which left a huge gap in team practices between mid-November and early January, according to Schaefer.
“We weren’t able to get back on the field as a team until the first day of school this spring,” said Schaefer. “But the last week-and-a-half of practice has been great and it was evident that everyone did what they were supposed to be doing on their own time. We’re prepared and we’re excited.”
In seasons before the transition to Division II, the ultimate goal was post-season playoffs. Because the team is in its second year of the two-year transition period, they are not eligible for the post season, leaving PacWest conference championships and the National Christian College Athletic Association championships as the main goal, Schaefer said.
“This team reminds me of the team we had in 2009, where we don’t do one thing exceptionally well but we do everything pretty well,” said Schaefer. “We can catch, we can pitch and we’re a good offensive team that can do a lot of things well. We don’t have an area that we will be known for, but I think that’s what good teams look like.”