Renewed Optimism as CMS Baseball Season Begins

Evan Opperman CM ’17 catches the ball as Okanagan player strikes out. (Abby Gold • The Student Life)

Last season was a disappointing struggle for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps baseball team (0-1, 0-0 SCIAC). The team limped to a 7-32 record, with a 5-23 record in the SCIAC. But despite the struggles of last year, a renewed sense of optimism has swept the team as the 2016 season begins. Under the guidance of new coach Bill Walkenbach–who previously guided Cornell University to an Ivy League Championship in 2012–as well as a strong recruiting class, the Stags look to build the foundation for a successful future. Pitcher Clayton Brock CM ’16 has confidence that a host of new contributors will make the difference.

“We have a lot of new guys who will be contributors which is exciting and will make the team better,” he said. “After a disappointing season last year we’re expecting significant improvement.”

The Stags were able to translate this optimism into success on their home field this past Saturday, Feb. 6th. After falling behind early against Okanagan University College in an exhibition game, the team rallied in the middle innings to take the win. Infielder and outfielder Nicholas Lillie CM ’17 was proud of the offensive performance.

“The game against Okanagan was a good test for us” he said. “We were down early in the game but were able to string some hits together…. [and] as soon as we gained some momentum, we put the game away.”

Leading the effort was infielder and outfielder Chase Eller CM ’18 who had two hits, including a triple, and reached base via a hit by pitch twice. On the mound, pitcher Sam Baughman CM ’17 posted three solid innings.  

Success was harder to find this past Tuesday, Feb. 9th, in the Stags’ home opener against Master’s College, who had been ranked No. 10 overall in the NAIA Coaches Association preseason poll. The Stags struggled in the first three innings, walking a number of batters and surrendering eight runs, despite giving up only three hits. CMS responded with three runs strung together on four hits with two outs in the fourth inning. The offense picked up again in the eighth inning, putting two more runs on the board off of hits from Ryan Motter CM ’19, and Alex Bratis CM ’18. Pitcher Andre Simoneau CM ’19 also had a strong performance, striking out three batters in one and a third innings. Nonetheless, the Stags fell 19-7 to Masters.

But for many players on this young CMS team, this is just part of the process in creating a winning culture and environment.

“Every team, especially young teams like ours, needs to learn how to win games,” Lillie said. “Mentally we need to constantly bring the energy to help our guys on the field and put pressure on the opposing team and we need to continue to develop our younger players.”

If the Stags can develop their players and keep motivation, success should not be far behind. Their next game will be at home on Friday, Feb. 12th, at 2:30 p.m. against Willamette University (3-1) from the Northwest Conference.

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