Men’s baseball planning to stay on top

File photo by Will Huang

File photo by Will Huang

Change is the enemy for the Wilfrid Laurier University men’s baseball team this year. If everything goes according to plan, they would like to do exactly what they did a year ago and repeat as the winners of the Ontario University Athletics championship.

The challenge this year is learning to play as champions, with the rest of the league taking notice. Head coach Scott Ballantyne said he spoke with his team the first week of training camp about what that means.

“Being able to handle the expectations and then also being able to handle the responsibility that comes with it is something that comes with being the defending champs,” he said.

He also said the Hawks might find their opponents sending their top pitchers to the mound this year, in hopes of knocking off the defending champs. It’s something that does not faze fourth-year outfielder Jonathan Brouse.

“It will happen for sure. At the same time, I think we have the talent and experience to put up a good fight every day,” he said. “It will be nothing that guys haven’t seen before or won’t be able to overcome so I’m confident.”

Brouse was a first team OUA all-star last year, was voted the team’s most valuable player last season and was the first ever baseball player to receive the President’s Award for top male athlete at Laurier.

“I think the biggest thing is that we know we have basically the same people back this year. I think that gives us some confidence and makes us believe in ourselves that we can do this again,” he said.

While Brouse led a strong batting order with his .434 average last year, Ballantyne insisted the key to getting back to the top lies on the other side of the ball.

“Ultimately I think it will come down to our pitching and defence just like it did last year. I feel pretty confident with the starting pitching and we practice our defence every day,” he said.

At the top of that pitching rotation is third year Jordan Petruska, who had a 1.94 ERA last year in six starts during the season. He believes that he, along with the rest of the pitching staff, are going to be a lot for other teams to handle.

“We have probably the best pitching staff in OUA baseball. We have a great group of guys coming back,” he said. “Knowing that we’ve got it done in the past can really make us drive for another championship.”

Ballantyne believes his team’s experience and attitude should get them right back to where they want to be.

“They’ve been there and been down the road and know what it is like to play in those big games. I certainly feel like we’ve got the team that can deal with that extra responsibly and those expectations,” he said.

The team will open its season at home against the Western Mustangs on Sept. 6 at Bechtel Park.

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