Eric Parks, Staff Writer
After finishing last season 17-30, the Saint Martin’s baseball team looks forward to returning five GNAC All-Conference selections on its quest to improve. The team was voted fifth out of six in the GNAC Preseason coaches poll, signifying that the program is still under development.
The Saints began the season in Hawaii where they were swept by University of Hawaii at Hilo in four games. Shortly following, they face Hawaii Pacific in a three game series before returning to Lacey. Throughout the season, the Saints play more on the road than they do at home, further complicating their goal to improve last year’s fifth place standing. The good news for the Saints is that while they have started slow, the rest of the conference hasn’t fared well either. As of Feb. 13, the only GNAC team over .500 is Montana State. Two other teams, Western Oregon and Concordia, began their seasons 0-4 as well. Central Washington began the season 3-3, and Northwest Nazarene went 2-4 over their first six contests. Saint Martin’s home opener is March third against Western Oregon and the season runs through May, ending on the fifth against Concordia.
If the Saints are to improve, they will need to rally around their better players. Pitchers Mickey Walker, Aaron Shoup, Luke Hare and Adam Eskil are all returning from last season. The four of them started a combined 27 games for the Saints last year, so the pitching will have plenty of continuity. Furthermore, Shoup was a second team All-Conference selection while Eskil was an honorable mention. Not only did Eskil start three games at pitcher (0-3), but he saw the most at-bats last season (161) and was second and third on the team in runs and hits, respectively (25 runs on 47 hits). In all, this group was 10-17 last year with room to grow from experience.
The Saints have plenty of firepower on offense returning from last season as well. Outfielder Steven Sordahl, infielder/pitcher Adam Eskil and outfielder Austin Feist were all either second team All-Conference or Honorable Mentions last season. Eskil, Sordahl and Feist combined for 38 percent of the runs scored for the Saints last season as well as 52 percent of all RBIs. Hopefully the team can rally around these players since the Saints did lose several other pieces. Alec Hagerman, who lead the team in batting average (.365) and Brandon Witherspoon were among those who are not back for 2018.
With increased contributions from the rest of the team, SMU could at least rise higher than fifth in the underachieving GNAC. With thirteen freshman on their roster, the Saints have a collection of established upperclassmen as well as developing talent. While the season hasn’t started off the way the Saints would have liked, hopefully the team can rally together and improve from last season.