Despite losing the lead in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, the Grizzly baseball team remains positive and focused on winning the conference title this year.
For several weeks, the baseball team led the HCAC, but after suffering a 19-11 loss to the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Tuesday, they are now 9-7 and ranked fourth in the conference. With plenty of conference games left in the season, the team may have a chance to take back the lead.
“More often than not this year things have gone our way” said Lance Marshall, the team’s head coach. “We just need to continue working hard and taking advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.”
Sophomore Sam Claycamp said being the number one team in conference significantly boosted the team’s level of confidence.
“It’s just a good feeling. It’s a lot more fun when you’re on top than when you’re on the bottom,” Claycamp said. “When you’re on top of the conference, you feel like you can beat anybody.”
While Marshall said their defense is coming along, he said the team needs to continue to grow as a team before they can accomplish their goal, which means strengthening their defense, as well as pitching and hitting.
Claycamp said a majority of success has evolved from the team’s hitting record, but he agreed with Marshall, adding that the defense and pitching must improve.
He said the key to reaching those next levels is simply “more practice.”
But there is one element Claycamp said doesn’t need to change: the team bond.
“ It’s a really close team — a very family-like atmosphere,” he said. “ Everybody has everybody’s back. It’s always fun to be out there together.”
Even though he transferred to the team just this year, Claycamp said the component that is different in this team compared to last season’s team is the overall morale.
“From what I’ve heard… it’s totally different,” Claycamp said. “ There’s a lot more confidence. We’re scoring runs, and they struggled with that last year.”
He said one setback is having a greater number of young players, but said this is less of a concern given the skill level of the players.
“There is a little inexperience, so there are some things that happen, but very rarely,” he said. “ Everybody is talented enough that it makes up for it.”
Marshall agreed, and said that having a young team can be a challenge. But this year has been different. Marshall said the team is full of players who work hard, which is why he is confident they will end the season with a conference title.
“We just need to continue trusting the process we put in motion,” he said.
“I think good things are going to continue to happen.”
For Claycamp, ending the season with the conference title would mean a great deal for not only him but for his teammates. “ It would be amazing,” he said.
Catch the Grizzlies in action this afternoon when they take on HCAC opponent Bluffton University at 4:15 p.m. at Grizzly Park.