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Baseball hits the diamond in full swing

CWU+pitcher+Tyler+Hoefer+is+just+one+of+the+experienced+Wildcat+pitchers+being+featured+on+the+roster+this%0Aseason.+Hoefer+and+the+Wildcats+will+look+to+hit+the+field+for+2019%2C+with+their+opener+set+for+Feb.+8.
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Baseball hits the diamond in full swing

CWU pitcher Tyler Hoefer is just one of the experienced Wildcat pitchers being featured on the roster this
season. Hoefer and the Wildcats will look to hit the field for 2019, with their opener set for Feb. 8.

CWU pitcher Tyler Hoefer is just one of the experienced Wildcat pitchers being featured on the roster this season. Hoefer and the Wildcats will look to hit the field for 2019, with their opener set for Feb. 8.

CWU pitcher Tyler Hoefer is just one of the experienced Wildcat pitchers being featured on the roster this season. Hoefer and the Wildcats will look to hit the field for 2019, with their opener set for Feb. 8.

CWU pitcher Tyler Hoefer is just one of the experienced Wildcat pitchers being featured on the roster this season. Hoefer and the Wildcats will look to hit the field for 2019, with their opener set for Feb. 8.

Dez Rodriguez, Assistant Sports Editor

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Correction 2/7/19: This article has been edited to reflect that Kaleo Johnson was the GNAC Triple Crown winner last season, where he led the league batting averages, home runs and RBIs. The original version was worded in a way that implied he was leading the league this season.

CWU Baseball is underway and preparing for the season opener on Feb. 8 against Academy of Art University in San Francisco, California. CWU will look to make it back to the GNAC Championships for a third straight season after finishing the regular season last year in third place with a record of 27-26.

The Wildcats are returning six starting pitchers and five position starters to this year’s squad. They lost two key players from last year’s club in Jimmie Smith III and Dustin Braun, but head coach Desi Storey welcomes in talented transfers and experienced veterans to the team as the Wildcats are looking to bounce back from a semifinal loss in the GNAC tournament last season.

“Our style is going to be a little different this year without Dustin and Jimmie Smith III in the lineup,” Storey said. “We’re not going to hit a lot of home runs, but I think we’re going to be better defensively. We’ll probably be more consistent one through nine in the lineup.”

Junior outfielder Justin Hampson and sophomore infielder Mitch Lesmeister will both return after being selected as an Honorable Mention for the All-GNAC team. Hampson finished last season hot, with a .327 batting average, scoring 36 runs along the way, while Lesmeister had a .294 batting average in his freshman year at CWU.

“We have to bring the same energy we had last year fighting every inning and every pitch,” Hampson said. “We didn’t end it the way we wanted to last year, so we have to take that feeling of defeat and use it to power ourselves to keep going when times get tough.”

On the mound, senior pitcher Connor Stevenson and junior pitcher Tyler Hoefer will lead a pitching group filled with upperclassmen. Stevenson is returning from a season where he had 53 strikeouts while posting a 4.40 ERA. Hoefer finished 5-0 in 15 relief appearances with a 4.88 ERA.

“Last year we never had any quit in us. We always battled until the very last out,” Hoefer said. “I’ve never been a big social guy but just leading by example and doing my job 110 percent will hopefully rub off on the young guys.”

The GNAC preseason poll selected CWU to finish third, behind Western Oregon University and Montana State University Billings (MSUB). However, both have lost key All-American selections from last season. MSUB specifically lost two players to the MLB draft, most notably Kaleo Johnson who was the first ever GNAC Triple Crown winner last year. He led the league in batting averages, home runs and RBIs.

The winter weather has been light on the Wildcats this year which has given the team a great opportunity to continue practicing outside to work on situational drills for pitching, hitting and defense. This is something Storey likes to do at the end of each practice to get the team better prepared for in-game scenarios.

The Wildcats will have seven non-conference games before opening up GNAC play on March 2 against Saint Martin’s University. The end goal is to make the GNAC tournament, which will be hosted by Concordia University on May 8-10 in Portland, Oregon.

“Our expectation is all the same. We should be competing for the championship,” Storey said. “We’re probably younger than a few other teams in the conference, but I think we’re going to be right there.”

 

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