Golden Hawks Baseball return to the diamond seeking a third straight championship
“We are definitely looking forward to getting back together, putting the purple and gold on and going to fight for another OUA Championship,” head coach of the men’s baseball team, Scott Ballantyne said of the upcoming season.
Among men’s golf and football, Laurier’s baseball team will be one of the first teams to return to action after nearly two years away from the game.
In a rematch of the national championship in 2019 and the last university baseball game played by both schools since the pandemic, the Golden Hawks will start their season on Saturday against the Guelph Gryphons.
Twenty-three months spent off the field, coach Ballantyne is “thrilled” to return to the field this weekend.
“I think the team is super excited. The coaching staff is certainly looking forward to it as well,” Ballantyne said.
“We’re just thrilled to play that first game and that we have student-athletes who are happy to be here and compete,” he continued.
Despite losing the national championship game in 2019, Laurier has dominated OUA play in the past two seasons. Ballantyne’s squad posted a 32-9-1 record including postseason games and was able to win back-to-back provincial championships after a 12-1 beatdown on Carleton last season in 2019.
Laurier has become a baseball powerhouse under the former Golden Hawk star and male MVP,Scott Ballantyne. Ballantyne has been with the baseball program for over two decades as a player and coach and has developed quite the culture throughout his time.
As the coach, his team has consistently made the playoffs and have won three of the past seven provincial championships, while remaining firmly focused on a three-peat this upcoming year.
“The first thing we talk about on the first day of training camp is that we are here to win. Over the last decade that’s always been our expectation,” Coach Ballantyne said.
As a result of the pandemic, the upcoming OUA season will be unique for every sport, including baseball.
The first thing we talk about on the first day of training camp is that we are here to win. Over the last decade that’s always been our expectation.Scott Balantyne, men’s basketball team head coach
Coaches and student-athletes across Ontario universities will have to adjust to the time away from play, significant changes to their team roster and hurdles surrounding the pandemic, such as testing and screening.
One of the challenges for Ballantyne and the rest of the OUA will be a roster makeup vastly different then the previous season. Due to the cancellation in 2020, some key players have graduated from Laurier..
With players added from two new recruiting classes, Ballantyne believes his team is prepared for the season after a strong training camp and recent competition.
“Some of them got quite a bit of activity with their summer team,” Ballantyne said.
“I would say we will have around a 40-man roster and about 35 of them have played in the summer.”
The team has been training in the past week with “high energy” and recent competition will certainly help the players once action kicks off this weekend.
Laurier will rely on a balance of youth and veterans such as outfielder Kai Harris who is entering his senior year. Fans should also be excited to see new talent that Ballantyne brought in the past two seasons, finally being able to make their debut.
Big names such as Ryan Freemantle who previously played with Guelph in their outfield before switching to Laurier and two exciting pitching prospects, Michael Mommersteeg and Nick Fraser.
Mommersteeg played for four years with Valparaiso University in Indiana, a D-1 NCAA school, while Fraser was ranked as the ninth overall Canadian prospect in 2020 by “Perfect game” the top baseball scouting service in North America.
Laurier will face a difficult 12-game schedule over the next three weeks, matching up against Guelph, McMaster, Waterloo and Carleton, some of the best baseball programs in Ontario.
Coach Ballantyne is excited for the challenge facing his team and firmly expects to “be in the mix” when the OUA qualifying tournament begins on October 9.
“It’s different, but we are happy to have that challenge. The balance of power in the OUA right now is in our geographic region… we’re excited that all of the games we play are against top quality teams,” he said.
Laurier will play Waterloo tonight in an exhibition match before four games over the weekend against Guelph to start their season, two of them played in Kitchener.
Laser-focused on a third straight championship, Coach Ballantyne and his team will only have to wait three more days before they can get back on the diamond and defend their championship.
“Being able to play that first game … will be a huge goal that we have been looking forward to getting too,” he said.