The Britons kick off their season March 9th with a stop in Indiana to take on Franklin College, before heading down to Florida to play six games in six days.
Last year, Albion baseball started slowly, but inched their way to a 19-23 overall record and a 16-12 MIAA record. They claimed the fourth spot in the double-elimination MIAA tournament before suffering two disappointing losses to Adrian and Hope.
The Britons look to return to the tournament this year with a few veterans anchoring a young supporting cast. The Florida trip will be the first look at what the Brits have to offer this season. Head Coach Scott Carden hopes that the focus he saw in his team in the offseason will translate to onfield success and ultimately early victories.
“It’s a tough transition from indoor [practice] to outdoor,” Carden said. “So, a lot of it is just going to be continuing to focus on the process and doing things right.”
The team is adapting to Carden’s strategy for success and has adopted his outlook on how to play the game.
“We’ve been focusing on the process instead of the outcome,” said BJ Konkle, Marshall senior. “If you do everything right but don’t get a base hit, you worry about what you did that didn’t get you the base hit.”
The key to Carden’s mental strategy is simple.
“You don’t focus on the negatives,” Konkle said. “During the game, if we don’t win, we’ll focus on what we did that hindered that, or what did we do well that made us win.”
The team has strong pitching, which will be critical in the fast-paced MIAA season. The four-man rotation isn’t quite set, but will be anchored by a pair of aces in Kyle Cassidy, Naperville, Ill., junior, and Mike Schypinski, Sterling Heights senior, both of whom posted sub-3.5 ERA’s in 2012.
While the starting pitching will be good, Konkle thinks that one critical difference between this year and last year is a bullpen to back them up.
“We have a lot of freshmen coming in, it’ll be more of an actual pitching staff,” Konkle said. “Last year we were short on arms. Different guys can be more specific in their roles.”
While the team may have a large number of freshmen, the players look at this as a positive. The freshmen have forced older players to practice harder and play smarter.
The team knows who most of the starters are going to be and talented backups have heightened the intensity of practices, as younger players challenge veterans for their starting spots.
“[For] some positions, having more people helps improve the guys who have been here,” said TJ Lurie, Huntington Woods sophomore. “They’re being challenged for their spots.”
That youth will be important for the Britons’ future, but Carden thinks some of the freshmen are ready to play.
“This group of freshman is very, very talented,” Carden said. “I think they’re in a pretty good position because a lot of them can help us, but a lot of them don’t have to help us. We’ve tried to tell our freshmen that’s a good place to be in because if you perform you’re going to play, but you’re not supposed to, so you have a year to develop.”
With its combination of youthful energy and veteran leadership, the Albion baseball team is in good position to make it back to the MIAA tournament. While many teams might look at a season with a young roster and call it a rebuilding year, Carden’s goals are clear.
“We’re not looking at this year as a year where we’re just trying to make it through,” Carden said. “I think we have the right pieces of the puzzle to compete for the title.”
Photo courtesy of the Albion College Flickr