Last season, the Ichabod baseball team fell just short of their goal of making it to NCAA Regionals. Boasting the nation’s third-toughest schedule in 2016, with a record of 34-20, the team was left hanging on selection day.
“Frankly I felt like we probably should’ve been in, but you know, I wasn’t on that committee,” said head coach Harley Douglas. “With those returning guys, that’s every bit of what they’ve thought about since the day we got left out. That’s been what’s driving those guys. That’s a hungry team. We like that.”
With 15 highly motivated seniors on the roster for the upcoming season, the Ichabods have a very realistic opportunity to reach their goal of making the NCAA Regional Tournament for the first time in school history. They will have to navigate a difficult MIAA schedule, which includes a finishing stretch which has the ‘bods on the road for 13 of their last 14 games, closing with three games against Central Missouri in Warrensburg.
The Ichabods will no doubt lean on their experienced players to guide the team through the long season. Of the many players coming back for the 2017 season, three earned preseason awards. Nick Silva, a senior right handed pitcher, is a preseason NCAA Central Region All-American. Senior shortstop Riley Krane was put on the Players to Watch list and outfielder Curtis Whitten made the Newcomers to Watch list.
Silva, the MIAA Pitcher of the Year who was 9-0 with a 2.64 ERA in 14 starts in 2016, leads a pitching staff that has potential to be a force for the Ichabods in 2017. Three other seniors, Maustin Otterstatter, Jaren Kutzke and Lance Barkley, are joining Silva. All three are highly regarded by their coaching staff.
“We’ve got a lot of good arms,” said Shawn Joy, pitching coach. “They’ve been working really hard and have a chance to be a really good pitching staff.”
While the pitchers look to keep the opponents scoring down, Krane looks to help provide the offense for the Ichabods. Krane comes off an All-MIAA season last year in which he played in every game, hitting .321 with 75 hits and 50 RBI’s. He will be a key part of an offense that emphasizes getting on base and aggressively attacking the base paths. According to Douglas, speed has always been his emphasis at Washburn, and this season will be no different.
“It’s not a secret, everybody knows that we want to run and be as athletic as possible,” Douglas said. “We always put guys in motion, we always try to take extra bases, we really work hard with that. We go through our base running stuff every day and that’s something that these guys really take pride in.”
The Ichabods will start their season on Feb. 2 with a trip south. The team’s first four games will be at the Quik Trip Classic in Grand Prairie, Texas, where they will take on Newman, Oklahoma Christian, Southern Arkansas, and East Central University over the course of three days. This team’s talent and experience, coupled with Coach Douglas’ aggressive offensive philosophy, sets up a season that provides an opportunity for the Ichabods to take that next step forward, and propel themselves for the first time into a coveted NCAA Regional appearance.