Lawrence University baseball has had a thrilling season, and as first -year Steven Geiger says, “We’re not done yet.” After a 15-19 finish last year, the Vikings have improved to 26-11 this year. On May 14, they came back from a 6-2 deficit against the University of Chicago and won their first Midwest Conference Championship in 40 years. In speaking to some of the players, I got the low-down on what it’s like to be a part of one of the winningest teams in school history, and more importantly the feelings associated with winning the Midwest Conference Tournament.
Coming into the season, the Vikings felt a different energy compared to last year. Sophomore ace Quinn Berglin noted both experience and fresh talent as key factors. He said, “Personally, I had high expectations coming into the season because we had a good recruiting class and we were a young team last year. I think that we are a little more experienced compared to last year.” Lawrence has seven first-years on the roster, including several who have made key contributions, such as Parker Knoll, Jeffery Cambra, Taylor Freeman and Nick Heerde, who are all batting above .300. Seniors Spenser Ross and Jacob Charon have brought leadership and experience, both starting 35 of Lawrence’s 37 games this year.
Berglin’s teammates shared his enthusiasm about the winning culture at Lawrence this season. First -year Steven Geiger notes that simplifying things helps to take the pressure off. He said,: “Baseball is a fun sport; we like to have fun and simplify the game. Pitchers, just throw strikes. Hitters, just put the ball in play. When you simplify the game and do what you’re supposed to do, great things happen.” Amidst the pressure of the postseason, it seems that the Vikings just went out and played the game they find joy in with their friends. Sophomore Avery Grayton notes the bond that the team has built this year: “We’re always together. We’re always for each other and working together and not against each other.” Bonding and shared goals have helped contribute to an atmosphere of success.
While sophomore Henry Sipchen is sidelined by injuries, he took some time to note key contributors to this landmark season. Sipchen noted the pitching staff in particular: “Shoutout to my roommate Quinn [Berglin] for the multiple times he’s shoved on the mound. Having guys like Quinn and Michael Duttlinger that can go out and basically take care of two games pitching-wise has been huge for us.” Berglin and Duttlinger have both eaten innings this year, standing at 6-1 and 4-1 respectively in their starts.
One of the biggest stories this year at Lawrence is Jacob Charon, a senior outfielder. Charon has 19 home runs this season, shattering the prior Lawrence home run record. When asked about his feelings about this accomplishment, Charon said: “It feels great. I came into the season not expecting to do that. It feels good to contribute to the team’s success. I couldn’t be happier.” Among setting records and achieving accolades, Charon is just happy that his performance this year has helped lead to tallies in the win column.
What was most noteworthy in talking to the Vikings I interviewed was hearing about the sensations and emotions associated with their achievements this year. In talking to sophomore Luke Miles, who hit his first home run of the season in a tight playoff game against Illinois College, he set the scene for me from his perspective: “It was a 3-2 count. I was really just looking to hit the ball hard somewhere. Taylor [Freeman] was on third. I got a middle-in fastball and put barrel to it. After I took a few steps and saw the ball in the air, I knew it was going out. It was an unreal feeling.” The home run is among the best feelings in sports, in the ranks with a perfect swoosh in basketball, scoring a goal or connecting on a big hit in football.
The players had insights as well for the feelings entering the championship matchup against University of Chicago. Sipchen said that the team was “excited, but also comfortable and overall confident.” Sophomore Stephaune Haylock stated that “There was a lot of excitement. Obviously, there were some nerves, especially with a young team with only three seniors, but we know at the end of the day that we play our game and do what Lawrence does and win.”
First-year Parker Knoll caught the last out in center field. The Vikings had a lot to say about that moment. Berglin commented: “That last out was incredibly iconic, with Parker’s catch and the celebration afterwards. I think that it’s going to be a memory forever. It was awesome.” Grayton’s reaction was similar. He said: “That moment was crazy. We had a lot of comebacks this year, including two comebacks in the playoffs. It all just hit you at once when Parker caught the ball in center for the last out.”
Speaking on the celebration after the game, Haylock said: “It was one of the most surreal experiences of our lives. Everything that built up to that: the practices, the hard work, the early mornings. After everything we’ve gone through together this year, storming the field was one of the best moments of our lives, for a lot of us. Holding that trophy made everything worth it.”
Ahead of the Vikings’ opening game of the 2022 NCAA tournament, Berglin noted that “Fan support is always great. If we can get fans to come out and support our games and get a rowdy crowd, baseball is all about the atmosphere.” Lawrence faces off with UW-Stevens Point at 10 a.m. this Friday, May 20.