MW BASEBALL: MW hoping bats heat upWORTHINGTON — Entering Minnesota West’s gym to the sound of bats cracking baseballs means only one thing: spring is here.
WORTHINGTON — Entering Minnesota West’s gym to the sound of bats cracking baseballs means only one thing: spring is here.
The Bluejays are coming off a 5-23 season overall in 2011 — including a 3-9 division record — with top returners Eric Wieneke and Shane Schoborg back for their sophomore seasons. With only four sophomores on the roster, the Bluejays are far from a veteran squad.
“We’ve got a young team, but an experienced team,” MW coach Jeff Linder said. “We should be pretty solid.
“We need our young guys to perform and we need to stay healthy. We’ve got all of the talent, but we just don’t have the numbers that we need.”
Having only 12 players on the roster doesn’t leave much room for a bench for the Bluejays.
“We’ve got a talent and a lot of possibilities,” Linder said.
The Bluejays are off to a 0-4 start to the season with two losses coming in a tournament in Kansas City 20-1 and 10-1 and dropping a doubleheader to Mesabi Range 2-1 and 11-2 Monday. Although the team is winless on the season, Linder sees progression.
“I was really happy with how we performed overall (versus Mesabi Range),” Linder said. “We need to get the offense going a little bit.
“We need to get our bats going. We need to take advantage of what other teams give us. We need to produce some runs.”
The Bluejays stranded 17 runners and batted .208 in the doubleheader versus MR and have scored five runs in four games. Ironically enough, the March weather in Minnesota has allowed the Bluejays plenty of chances to work outside on its defense. With just 10 hits in 14 innings versus MR, the bats need to catch up with the weather and get warm.
“Those are things that will come along,” Linder said. “It’s early right now. We shouldn’t even be outside right now.
“It’s a clear advantage to be outside and work defensive things, but we haven’t had enough times in the cage. That’s what we’re going to work on in the next few days.”
The top newcomers to the Bluejays include four Worthington grads in Stuart Rogers, Adam Munkel, Mitchell Jensen and Joey Kinley, along with Murray County Central graduate Alex Petersen.
“They are all going to be great contributors to our team,” Linder said. “We just need to get them acclimated to the college level baseball game.
“They are coming along great.”
An importance to having players from the same surrounding area is they are acquainted with one another.
“The closeness of the team is going to be really important,” Linder said. “They are gelling really well, they are sticking together and that’s what it’s going to take.
“We need healthy guys that play hard for each other and perform. If we can do those things, we are going to be fine.”
Wieneke can already see the team being different from last year’s squad.
“Our attitudes this year are so much better,” Wieneke said. “Last year we had a couple kids with bad attitudes that didn’t want to be here and when they played it showed.
“Just listening to everyone, they all want to be here and they all want to win. I’ve played against many people on this team and I know what they are like and what they can do. It helps a lot. Bigger schools recruit more and it takes more time for their teams to bond, but here you’ve already known these guys and it’s an advantage.”
Wieneke is hoping to leave his mark in his final season at MW.
“I want to go to state,” Wieneke said. “But what I really want to do is improve this program, so more kids will come and play.
“I want to be one of the people who improved Minnesota West baseball. My goal is to have one of their best seasons here, so next year’s recruiting class and the one after that can improve.”
MW’s home opener will be a doubleheader versus Northland Saturday with the first pitch scheduled for 1 p.m.
Daily Globe Sports Editor Chris Murphy can be reached at 376-7328.