Just six games into HCAC play, the baseball team is only two wins away from matching last season’s conference win total. Now 6-0 in league play after this weekend’s doubleheader sweep of Mount St. Joseph, and one of only two unbeaten teams in the conference, AU could not have gotten off to a better start this conference season.
“Guys are getting comfortable and buying into their roles,” said John Becker. “Our pitching staff has been great and giving us every chance to win games. Our hitters are battling and competing at the plate.”
Becker, one of four seniors on the roster, anchors the pitching rotation and is currently 2-0 in league play, fresh off of a 14- strikeout performance in a victory over Manchester, the eighth most strikeouts in a game in Anderson history.
Underclassmen have continued to play a huge role in the rotation for AU. Andrew Rolfsen, Zach Lane, Nick Jones and Clayton White combined for 18 innings of five run baseball in the doubleheader sweep. Lane earned the win in game one and the save in game two. Rolfsen threw five and one-third scoreless innings in his start, while White went six in game two. Jones earned the save in game one and has yet to allow an earned run.
After last season ended in disappointing fashion, the team has been thrilled with how they have responded early in the 2018 season.
“It’s been awesome competing with these guys every day,” said Nick Butcher. “This team makes everything so fun and works hard day in and day out.”
“I haven’t experienced something like this since we won conference freshman year. Starting 6-0 has been huge, but we must continue to work hard every single day.”
Butcher holds a .395 batting average and is tied for third in Division III in doubles with 15.
Becker contributed much of the early success to the team’s tight-knit dynamic.
“We’re not just a team,” he said. “We are a family. That makes it really easy to play loose and not let pressure get to us.”
Winners of 10 of their last 12 games, pressure has not phased AU in the slightest. They’ve managed to win in various capacities, blowing out Defiance in a two game series by a combined total of 35-12, or stealing one run victories over Ohio Northern and Mount St. Joseph.
“We still have work to do for sure,” said Coach Matt Bair in a press release. “These guys show up hungry and eager every day to learn. I’m excited about our direction.”
Butcher explained that keeping that hunger and drive will be vital to the team’s continued success.
“We need to keep focusing on ourselves and working hard,” he said. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who we play. If we play our best baseball and get our individual jobs done, we are the best team on the field every single day.”
Becker agreed with his fellow senior: “We are taking things one game at a time. Each game we play is the most important game of the season. When guys stay bought into that, we are a tough team to beat.”
Anderson is tentatively scheduled to host Hanover this weekend in a doubleheader, weather permitting. This would be only the Ravens’ second series at Don Brandon Field this season. Weather has led to multiple of their scheduled home games being moved to Grand Park in Westfield.
While it would be nice for the Ravens to finally be able to play in front of their home crowd, their lack of home dates has not hindered the team’s performance. AU is currently 7-0 in home games played at Grand Park, just another piece of adversity they have overcome early in the season.
Regardless of where their games are played, three things are for certain: the team will compete, they will play hard and they will play the game the right way.