Baseball team off to a strong start
As Willamette spring season sports head into the middle part of their seasons, the baseball team has started to find their rhythm and win some key conference games. As it currently stands, the team has an 8-8 record, most recently playing rival Linfield College. This year, the Bearcats have been led by some superb pitching from senior Ben Whitten, who currently has a 4-0 record with a no-decision. When asked about why he thinks he is having a good season so far, he said: “Experience. I feel comfortable out there. Being a senior, knowing the situation helps a lot, I can throw any pitch on any count. The team is taking good swings on hitter counts, and telling each other what the pitcher is doing. Communication is good on what different pitchers are doing with their pitches.” And the team is certainly hitting the ball very well. So far this season, the team has scored 121 runs over 16 games. Additionally, they have earned 59 extra base hits.
Whitten has enjoyed seeing lots of good hitting, saying that “it’s been really fun to watch.” He also mentioned that a few first-years have been contributing to the team’s success. “I would say we have three first years who have really contributed,.Layton Wagner has been making great plays at third base. Luke Werkmiester-Martin has been hitting well. Sam Daly has been pretty funny.[He]keeps it loose for the team. "
“It’s really nice to wake up and just play baseball. You don’t need to worry about class or homework, you get to just wake up and play.”
Whitten also mentioned that with spring break approaching, it is nice to take a break from school but not from baseball. “It’s really nice to wake up and just play baseball. You don’t need to worry about class or homework. You get to just wake up and play.” One of the games scheduled over the break is against Caltech. As Whitten described: “This is going to be a fun game. A lot of guys who haven’t had a lot of at-bats or starts are going to get a chance to play a lot.” After the break, the most important part of the season begins to approach. “I think the last two weekends will be big, that is usually when we find out if we are in the conference tournament.” To make the Northwest Conference (NWC) tournament, the Bearcats must be one of the top four teams within the NWC conference. Two seasons ago, the team did just that and made a deep playoff run. Whitten was a member of that team, and would like to return to the playoffs.
With a rather lengthy season, Whitten noted that there are many instances where the team works to improve its culture as to hopefully lend itself to victories. “We spend a lot of time with each other. We eat lots of meals together. Quite a few of the guys have started watching shows together on Friday nights.”
The team also spends a lot of time together on weekends, when they play double headers. A double header is when two games are played on the same day. Whitten described the process of what happens on a double header day: “It is a very long day. We eat breakfast as a team, we get to the field about two and a half hours before the first pitch. Our first job is to set up the field, then we start to warm up. We take batting practice, take ground balls and catch pop flies. Then we play a game and then eat lunch, then we play another game. After the second game we then take down the field. Some guys get the opportunity to start both games. It’s basically a nine hour day of baseball."
Whitten also noted that for students, “Doubleheaders are great, because if you miss the first one you can always go to the second one. And if you get a little bored, you can walk around Bush Park for a bit in the nice weather and then come back.”
The next home game series for the baseball team is on March 21 and 22, against Whitman University at Willamette’s Spec Keene stadium.