The Lawrence University baseball team headed to Florida over spring break looking to rebound from last season. The Vikings were 7-29 overall and 2-14 in the Midwest Conference. While in Florida, the Vikings managed only a 1-and-7 nonconference record.
It may have taken the team a while to thaw out in the Florida sun, but their trip ended with a 24-7 win over D’Youville College. Lawrence looked at home on the plate, delivering an amazing 23 hits. Sophomore Phil Wisniewski went 4-6 with four runs driven in, and All Conference star Robert Rashid chimed in going 3-3 with two triples and four runs scored.
Things looked solid from the pitching side as well. Andrew Wilt threw a complete game win while whiffing 8. Wilt’s performance was especially welcome given the team’s painfully high earned run average of 9.86 last season.
The win was certainly a shift in momentum and a great way to end the break. The Vikings are considered underdogs in the Midwest Conference. In fact, the North Division coaches picked Lawrence to finish dead last this spring. “I think that we’re much better than where we were picked in the conference, to be perfectly honest with you, but we haven’t shown that,” Head Baseball Coach and Assistant Football Coach Jason Anderson said. “We’re still in the process of getting our numbers up, but we have some good talent on the team. We learned a lot from our season last year, and we’re ready to move forward.”
Of Lawrence’s 24 players, 21 are underclassmen, so the team will be leaning heavily on their few seniors for leadership and consistent production, especially outfielder Robert Rashid. Rashid, who led the team in led the team in batting average (.366), runs (33), hits (48), doubles (10), triples (2) and stolen bases (32), was named an all-conference, all-region player. “[Rashid] sets the tone,” Anderson said. “I don’t expect anything less than his best year this year.”
Three key sophomores will also be returning to shore up the infield. Wisniewski will anchor 3rd base, with Gabe Henriques and Davide Harris at shortstop and second, respectively. “We’re younger this year than we were last year,” Anderson said. “The good news about that is half of those young guys have been around for a year and have had significant playing time.” Anderson noted that the younger guys will get a lot of at bats, a lot of innings and game time experience, and in a few years will be seasoned veterans leading Lawrence to more successful seasons.
Rashid says he is not worried about the 1-7 start over the break. He commented, “With such a young and inexperienced team at the college level, it is sometimes difficult to put all the pieces together in the first couple games… As the week went on, our confidence and team chemistry rose, we started hitting the ball better with runners in scoring position and the pitchers were more consistently hitting their spots.
The Vikings are in good position to surprise a lot of people this year. “We took some steps forward toward the end of last year,” Anderson said. “We have the ability in us, but we have to improve the consistency, which comes with age and experience.” In other words, it’s only a matter of time before things start looking up for the Blue and White.