After a solid 2014 campaign, the JJC baseball team is looking to take the next step in 2015. The 2014 team finished the regular season 39-19, but lost to Wabaunsee CC in the Regional Championship.
10 sophomores will return to the team, which will hopefully set the foundation for a successful season.
“We have a good amount of returners coming back,” said coach Wayne King.
These sophomores should be able to provide experience and help the freshmen adapt to a new team at a new level of play.
Two of these sophomores, catchers T.J. Condon and Colten Trager, are coming off of very successful 2014 campaigns. Condon received first team All-American honors, as well as a Gold Glove behind the plate. Trager was named the first team All-District designated hitter.
It is a luxury to have two successful catchers on the roster. After all, the catching position is arguably the most important position on diamond. Being able to manage the pitching staff as well as the opponent’s base running can prove to be invaluable assets. Condon and Trager’s strong hitting and defensive play should also add stability to the team.
While the catchers are a known commodity, the pitchers are mostly unproven.
Thomas Goodyear is the only returning pitcher from last year’s team. Goodyear had a good 2014 season, collecting seven wins with only one loss.
King considers the freshmen pitching to be a work in progress.
“There’s some new life on the side of freshman pitching, so we want them to get the chance to get out there and get their feet wet,” said King. “We’d like them to get a few games under their belt in order to get comfortable.”
Once the pitching staff takes shape, the Wolves should be a complete team.
“I think we’ll do alright this year,” said King, “I think we’ll catch and throw the ball well.”
Another thing to look forward to is the versatility of the infield. All of the Wolves’ infielders can play defense at second base, third base, and shortstop. This allows for flexibility in the lineup and in the field.
The roster is promising, but only time will tell how successful the team will be. At the very least, we can expect a competitive effort.
A major factor in determining the team’s success will be their preparation. After not playing in competitive games for a while, the players will likely have to make adjustments during the first few games. King knows once his players make these adjustments, their talent and determination will carry them.
“It’s just a matter of getting them back in the groove.” said King. This should not be too difficult, especially when you consider that the team has been practicing frequently since the end of last season.
“We really only stop for a couple of weeks so it’s not like they lose a whole lot,” said King.
Baseball is a game a repetition and mechanics, so taking short breaks is a good thing. The players are less likely to lose their rhythm if they practice daily.
There is one factor that is out of the coaches and players hands, however. This factor is the presence of Old Man Winter.
With the baseball field covered in snow, there are no opportunities for outdoor practices.
“I’ve contemplated on going out and removing the snow off of the dirt,” said King. “Last year we had a heck of a lot more snow and the temperatures were a lot lower. I’m hoping that we could potentially get out there a bit earlier this year. It helps when you get the chance to actually play outdoors as compared to being strictly indoors.”
Come March, we should have a clear field for the team. Hopefully, the field will be the setting for great baseball.
The Wolves kick off a new season on March 6, with back-to-back road games at Jefferson College. They then will play two games each at Volunteer State Community College and Columbia State Community College. On Sunday, March 12, the Wolves take on Elgin Community College at 2 p.m.