Picked to place third in the GPAC this season, the 2013 edition of the Raider baseball squad has a mix of high expectations and things to prove.
After posting a 30-23 record last season that didn’t feel reflect the perceived talent level, the Raiders are expecting to play up to their potential this season. The unity within the squad will be a key strength for the team.
“In my four years here, I haven’t been on a team like this where everyone has such good chemistry on and off the diamond,” said senior third baseman Noah Bohlmann. “Guys want it so badly for the team and are focused on the common goal of winning every pitch, inning and game.”
But good vibes only take a squad so far. The Raiders will hang their hats on their pitching staff. Senior Taylor Morris, junior Tyler Stuerman, junior Ryan Brasser and freshman Issac Horigan will be the four starters. The returners have a combined ERA under 4.00.
Senior Chase Rozeboom, junior Matt Piocos and freshman Josh Turner will provide late-inning relief from the bullpen.
“If we can limit free bases and pitch to our abilities every time, then our team should be able to win any game,” Stuerman said.
Manning the pitching staff will be sophomore catcher Tony Schultz, who started 36 games last season and had a team-high .460 OBP.
Junior Cody Groskreutz hit a team-high .337 last spring and will start at first base. Bohlmann will be at the other infield corner.
Junior transfer Erik Widener and senior Corey Van Gorp will make up the double-play combination at second base and shortstop, respectively. Van Gorp is a three-year starter.
“Our team has a lot of returning players who know what it takes to get it done,” Groskreutz said. “I think that is another key to our success as a team. A lot of us have played a few years together.”
Sophomore Mitch Peschan will hold down the spot in left field, but his biggest contribution to the team will be with his bat. He hit .307 last season and will be a middle of the lineup threat.
Junior Nikko Melonas will use his speed to patrol center field after being used mainly as a bench presence in the past.
Junior Davis Bloemendaal will start in right field, but also have opportunities to relieve Schultz behind the plate.
Junior outfielder Micah Linn and junior infielder Brett Rolls give head coach Brian Wede speed off the bench. Freshman Colin Sandbulte will also be a utility man.
All around, NW has a goal to compete in even the smallest tasks of the game.
“On the field, we want to be defined as a team that is going to give the opponents our best every game and make it tough for them to score runs,” Brasser said.
The Raiders will travel to Tucson, Ariz., for spring break. Their home opener will be on March 22.