No magic elixir exists for team chemistry, but every coach wants it because they will tell you it is a key to winning.
Lawrence University baseball coach Jason Anderson can’t tell you quite yet how his young team will develop this season, but the Vikings already have a key ingredient for success.
“I think this is chemistry-wise one of the closest teams I’ve ever been a part of,” said Anderson, who just started his third season coaching the Vikings. “We had to go through a season last year that was very humbling. Going through something like that was difficult, but it was a bonding experience. We’ve gotten better because of that.”
The Vikings went 7-29 a season ago and finished 2-14 in Midwest Conference play. Lawrence was picked by North Division coaches to finish last in the division 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,” 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.”
The Vikings will be led by the team’s one proven star, senior center fielder Robert Rashid. He was an all-conference and all-region selection last season and led the team in batting average (.366), runs (33), hits (48), doubles (10), triples (2) and stolen bases (32).
“He (Rashid) sets the tone in the classroom, in practice, in the weight room and on the field,” Anderson said. “I don’t expect anything less than his best year this year.”
The rest of the Vikings are still very young. Twenty-one of Lawrence’s 24 players are either freshmen or sophomores.
“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.”
The Vikings return a strong group of sophomores, led by middle infielders Gabe Henriques and Davide Harris. Henriques hit .259 last year and displayed defensive ability that could make him one of the league’s best shortstops. The speedy Harris, who swiped 13 bases a year ago, hit .247 in 2010 and will be the starter at second base.
Sophomore Phil Wisniewski is back at third, and Michael Baldino returns in left field. Wisniewski and fellow sophomore Alex Brewer also will see time behind the plate.
“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.”
The pitching staff struggled to a team earned run average of 9.86 last season, but Lawrence should get a boost from the return of Eric Bohling and the additions of Brian King, Chad Skaer and Luke Barthelmess. Bohling missed all of last season with an arm injury, and he also will be in the mix to play on the infield with Skaer and freshman Sam Kossow.
The Vikings also have experienced arms in senior Andrew Wilt and sophomores Sam Ausloos and John Revis.
“I think after the spring break trip we’ll have a good idea of what we have,” Anderson said. “Everyone is going to get a chance to play and pitch.”
Rose Tepper never got a chance to take flight at the NCAA Division III Championships last weekend.
The sophomore from Mount Vernon, Iowa, was scheduled to compete in the high jump last Saturday at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, but was knocked out by a case of food poisoning.
Both Tepper and head coach Jason Fast became ill the day before, and Tepper was still far too sick to take part in the meet on Saturday morning.
Tepper qualified for the meet when she broke the school record with a jump of 5 feet, 5.75 inches, on Feb. 5. She was then injured in practice and missed the Midwest Conference Championships. Tepper had returned to practice the week of the NCAA meet and was ready to compete.
Murray smacks ‘slam’
Sophomore Shannon Murray hit her first grand slam in Lawrence’s 14-1 victory over Franciscan University in the softball team’s season opener on Tuesday.
It was the first grand slam by a Lawrence player since Alex Goodson hit one against Grinnell College on April 18, 2009.
Editor’s Note: Inside LU Athletics is a weekly notes package written by Lawrence University Sports Information Director Joe Vanden Acker. It will feature teams and individual players, recap weekly awards or highlights and take a look at what’s ahead for the Vikings.