Despite playing their home games on an inferior field, the LU baseball team had their best season in over a decade last year. The Vikings finished 13-19 and the six wins from their Florida trip were the most in school history. Head Coach Korey Krueger has steered LU’s baseball program in the right direction. This year’s team is a little more seasoned than last year, returning many key players. They anticipate improvement on last year, along with the chance at a conference title.
To compete, they will have to deal with several key losses from last year’s squad. The Vikings graduated seniors Jason Shanda, Matt Smith, John Kuhn, and Rick Herzog. Along with these seniors, LU has recently lost Chuck Galloway, Ronnie Rosenthal, and possibly Morgan Boltz. Both Galloway and Rosenthal have transferred. Boltz could become eligible for games after the end of second term.
Starting catcher Paul Ritschard had surgery on his throwing shoulder on Dec. 11. He injured his shoulder playing football for the Vikes this fall. Depending on his recovery he should retake his starting spot in time for the Florida trip.
This year’s captains are Jeremy Tollefson, Mike Hart, Justin Anthony, and Ryan Zutter. All were second team All-Conference selections a year ago. Ryan Zutter had this to say about this year’s team: “It is going to be tough to replace Matt Smith and Jason Shanda. Our pitching staff is our strongest point and when you have solid pitching you put yourself into positions to win games.”
The pitching staff is the Vikes’ strongest suit. Returning are three of the top four pitchers in appearances: Anthony Kouba led the team with 10, Tom Ritzer was third with nine, and Adam Tegelman turned in eight performances. Justin Anthony started last year injured and is among Lawrence’s best. Allen Servais also had 10 appearances but was another casualty of the academic war.
Another strong suit of the team is its large freshman class. The 15 freshman trying out this term will bring the total number of players to 40, up from last year’s 27. The class of 15 is the largest in years and is among the largest ever at Lawrence.
Leading the freshman class is B.J. Chase, a six-foot-five lefty pitcher. With the numbers that the baseball team now has, there will be healthy competition at every position that will only make the team better.
The LU Baseball program is on its way up despite limited interest from the student body and support from the administration. Despite being promised a brand new field, they will play their season on an uneven, patchy field. Many players attest that their high school fields were head and shoulders above Lawrence’s facilities. A new field was at one time in the school’s budget, but was removed, as were plans for a new weight room. The lack of quality training facilities has led to many teams training with outside resources.
Practice starts in a few weeks, with the team’s first game scheduled for March 22 at the Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic in Fort Myers, Florida. Look for the team to build off their six wins in Florida last year and to start the season off hot.