Baseball team begins season in St. Louis

Share on Facebook
Tweet on Twitter

The SVSU baseball team will begin its 2017 campaign Friday, Feb. 24, as it travels to Maryville University in St. Louis for four contests spread over two days. This year’s squad is looking to build off a 22-28 season from a year ago and has a young but highly talented roster ready to take the field.

Head coach Chris Ebright will enter his third full season as the Cardinal’s head man confident with the progress the program made over the offseason.

“We were out recruiting hard and got really good all-around baseball players, and then we let (strength and condition coach) Chris Winter get a hold of them, and our guys are getting bigger, stronger and faster,” Ebright said. “Practices have been great; our guys keep getting better.”

While the team didn’t lose a large quantity of players from a season ago, it did lose its top pitcher in Mike Ellenbest, who was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 24th round of the MLB draft following his redshirt sophomore season. Ebright said that leaves the pitching staff young, but senior veteran Scott Sency will look to anchor down the pitching rotation with his experience on the mound. Last year, Sency went 5-4 with a 4.97 ERA. The pitching staff also returns three redshirts from a year ago in Brian Feinauer, Tyler Stambaugh and Trevor Friday.

In the field, SVSU returns the likes of Chad Carson (.294 batting average a season ago), Garret Soule (.291 and five home runs), Brendan Harrison (.329 with three home runs), Jordan Swiss (.351) and Adam Fitzgibbon (.314), all of whom had stout seasons a year ago. Swiss, who was named GLIAC Freshman of the Year and First-Team All GLIAC last season, also praised the strength program the team was on this offseason.

“Coach Winter holds us to very high expectations, which translated to everyone getting a lot stronger,” he said. “Most of us gained at least 10-15 pounds of good weight, which has shown in our velocity jumps and how the ball jumps off the bat.”

In addition, Ebright noted that this is by far the fastest and most athletic team SVSU has had in quite some time. He also said that both Swiss and Fitzgibbon have stepped into leadership roles this offseason.

“We all expect to win this year,” Swiss said. “We’re looking to make a good postseason run, and from freshman to senior, I’m confident we have the guys to do that.”

SVSU will begin its season Friday as it travels to Maryville, before the players and coaching staff spend their spring breaks playing in the southern part of the country. A year ago, the team had the 16th toughest schedule out of 267 Division II schools.

Ebright said this year’s non-conference schedule will not be as demanding, but will still provide the Cardinals with high-level competition as they prepare for GLIAC play.

The Cardinals begin their trip against Carson-Newman University, before it takes on Augusta University, Shorter University and Kentucky Wesleyan. Rounding out the trip is a series against Lincoln Memorial University. SVSU begins GLIAC play against Ohio Dominican on March 25. The Cardinals were selected to finish sixth in the conference in the preseason polls, a rank Ebright isn’t putting much stock into.

“I’m shooting for the top four; any competitive coach would,” Ebright said. “I’m glad we got picked sixth, because with our young pitching staff, I think being picked middle of the pack will take some of the pressure off those guys.”

Swiss expressed similar expectations and added that the team is ecstatic about being back out on the field this week.

“We’ve been looking forward to Friday for a long time,” he said. “We’re excited that the season is finally here, and we can’t wait to start playing games. It’s going to be a great week of practice, and I know our energy is going to be up this week. I know we’ll be ready to go as soon as we step on the field.”