Last season, Washburn beat every team in the MIAA. Unfortunately, they lost to every team, too.
The 2007 baseball season was a story of one step forward and two steps back, which resulted in a 21-27 season that had no postseason.
The sub-.500 season is hard for even the players to discuss.
“Oh, man,” said senior Mark Stoltz. “Half the stuff I’d say about last year, you probably can’t even type in a story. It didn’t go as well as we wanted it to.”
Stoltz is one of the few upperclassmen returning to a team that will be even younger than last year’s. In most cases, teams have lowered expectations during rebuilding years as new players adjust to their teammates and changing roles. However, the Bods believe they can improve in 2008 based on the talent that is coming in.
“Tyler [Blankenship] and I are the only two returning senior position players this year,” said Stoltz. “We’ve got a young team, but hopefully there’s enough talent that we can get some sweeps and not win one and lose three.”
After all, losing players that weren’t getting the job done is not always a bad thing. One win followed by two or three losses was a result that occurred far too often in last season’s series.
“It was kind of a disappointing year,” said Blankenship. “We thought we had a lot of talent, and should’ve made it further than we did.”
There are plenty of reasons for the returning Bods to believe the incoming players will make a difference. The freshmen from last season accounted for most of what little bright spots Washburn’s team had.
Pitcher Jake Iverson and second baseman Wes Joy were key players in their first years at the college level. Both hope that they can repeat their strong rookie performances, as well as see similar success in this season’s recruits.
“Wes is back this year,” said Iverson. “He’ll come out and do his thing. With those of us who are back, and the new guys, I think we’ll have a better team all around.”
Joy’s .401 batting average was good enough for him to win MIAA Freshman of the Year and make him a second team all-conference selection, along with Stoltz.
“We had a younger team,” said Joy. “Kind of inexperienced, and most of our guys will be young or else transfers again this year. But we want to at least finish above .500.”
Stoltz has been at Washburn long enough to see players come and go, and thinks this year’s roster is good enough to set expectations even higher than Joy’s.
“We were just a few plays short in every game,” said Stoltz. “A lot of them were so close. That was the first time in all my years here that we beat every team in the conference. I think that as a team, our goal should be to make both the conference and regional tournament.”
Although only four teams make the MIAA tournament and just eight make it into the regional bracket, a successful blend of Washburn’s young and experienced players has the team looking for a huge leap forward from last year’s result.
“This team is capable of winning the MIAA and finishing well above .500,” said Iverson. “We have some tough teams to play in this conference, but I think our team is solid enough that if we come out and play our best, we’ll be good.”