Hawks acquire MLB-drafted players

The baseball team will look to improve on their season last year, when they were suspended for four games for hazing. (File photo by Nick Lachance)

The baseball team will look to improve on their season last year, when they were suspended for four games for hazing. (File photo by Nick Lachance)

On the heels of a disappointing 2012 campaign that failed to meet expectations, the Wilfrid Laurier men’s baseball team is looking beyond their struggles and is eager to raise the bar higher this year.

Head coach Scott Ballantyne believes that this year’s purple and gold squad has the potential to claw their way to their first Ontario University Athletics (OUA) championship in school history.

“Our goal is simple. Win an OUA championship. We have a deep team and a team that we feel can compete for our first OUA championship in school history,” Ballantyne said of the Golden Hawks’ main goal.

The Hawks have taken steps in the right direction by adding two former MLB-drafted players, locals Mitch Clarke and Jeff Hunt. Ballantyne had a former connection with both players before Laurier.

“I have previous relationships with these players through my role as [general manager] of the Kitchener Panthers and I introduced them to the idea of getting their degree now that their pro careers are on hold,” said Ballantyne. “They both had opportunities to attend school in the US but opted the professional route out of high school and both have aspirations of getting into the business program.”

Clarke, originally drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 19th round in the MLB June amateur draft, is touted as power-throwing, left-handed pitcher. However, Clarke’s status is unknown this fall, as he was battling shoulder injuries this summer that may put him on the shelf to start the season. Hunt on the other hand is a third baseman and a smooth defensive player, but also brings the heat at the plate as a left-handed hitter.

According to Ballantyne, not only will the pair of big league-drafted players provide immediate strength to the lineup, but they also provide great leadership amongst the team.

“Jeff and Mitch have professional experience and I expect them to help out some of our younger players make the transition to a higher level of baseball than what they have played previously,” he said.

Hunt has been having a solid year with the Brantford Red Sox of the IBL and is already in mid-season form, which will be a benefit to a team that has some players who haven’t played ball this summer. As well, the two new additions will be role models to the younger players who are just joining the team, using their experience and leadership to help the players make the transition to OUA level baseball.

With these new additions, improvements from veteran players and a desire to reach the championship this year, it could be a perfect formula for success this season. The Golden Hawks’ first game of the season is Sept. 4 at 4 p.m., at Waterloo Betchel Field against local rivals, the University of Waterloo Warriors.

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