Planning for the future

File Photo by Heather Davidson

File Photo by Heather Davidson

As the echoes of playoff disappointment fade into the background, the Wilfrid Laurier men’s baseball team is starting to put the pieces back together for the 2015-16 season.

The club fell short to the Waterloo Warriors this past year while attempting to defend their Ontario University Athletics championship, despite posting a 14-4 regular season record.

At first glance, the Golden Hawks roster looks to be almost identical.

The lineup looks to have the same pop, as former male athlete of the year and all-star outfielder, Jonathan Brouse will be returning, as well as other key offensive pieces like fourth-year outfielder Alexander Kupchak and third-year first baseman Adam Shaver.

On the other side of the ball, fourth-year starters Jordan Petruska, Adam McBride, and third-year Andrew Ziedins will all be taking to the mound again this year.

However there is one notable absence from the pitching rotation with the departure of fifth-year starter Brett Van Pelt, leaving some large cleats to fill. The Hawks ace graduated and moved away from the program, leaving an all-starsized gap on the diamond.

Despite the loss of Van Pelt, head coach Scott Ballantyne is optimistic about the summer and the upcoming year.

“We have seven or eight pretty good recruits that are committed to us at this point, and we’ve got two or three other potential transfer students that we’re still talking to that we hope to secure over the next couple of weeks,” he said.

“We’re pretty happy with [the] core of incoming freshmen coming directly from high school. We feel like they are going to be able to contribute to us right away.”

The incoming freshmen include pitchers Austin Hassani, Tanner Goldsmith and Jordan Ferrazzo, first baseman Nic Lannutti, as well as three catchers in Connor Patterson, Ethan Kopel and Ryley Davenport.

The depth at the catching position is something Ballantyne had been looking to address after some injuries and shakiness in the position last season.

“We had Daniel Apostoli who was our starting catcher last year, partway through got hurt and was obligated to not 100 per cent of his true self. He still played but, if we had a little more depth in that area we feel we would have been a little better off coming into the tournament,” he said.

According to Ballantyne, recruiting is a science that has a lot more to it than just raw talent screening — it’s about the intangibles.

“We’re not looking for guys who are only in it for themselves, we’re looking for the ‘we’ kind of guys,” he said. “We’re really looking for good character people who we think are going to be good ambassadors for our program, and giving into the community.”

Ballantyne has been forced to apply that formula to a larger sample size in the last couple of years due to the current success of the program.

“You get a lot more interest in your program, so we haven’t had a lack of interest of high school players wanting to come play for Laurier. Great school, great reputation and when your team’s successful that certainly helps,” he said.

As the season approaches, Ballantyne is confident the club can make it back to the top of Ontario university baseball once again.

However he is cognisant of the effort and persistence required to make it to that level.

“I’ve been around this program for 16 years and we’ve been successful once,” he said.

“I feel this will again be another good year that we feel like we’re going to be right there, and if we catch a couple breaks, and we’re hot going into the playoffs, which is always our goal, then we’ll have a good chance.”

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