It didn’t take long for the Lawrence University baseball team to turn its season around.
After a traffic-filled, 30-hour bus ride to Fort Myers, Fla., the Vikings struggled out of the gate but earned a doubleheader split in their opening games with Lakeland College.
From that point, Lawrence’s pitching, offense and defense turned in a fine effort that allowed the Vikings to finish with a 6-3 spring break trip (the other two losses after the first day were both by one run). Lawrence currently has the best nonconference record among all Midwest Conference teams.
“If you take off the first game off the bus, we played pretty well,” Lawrence coach Jason Anderson said. “I was pretty pleased with the overall effort. We improved in every statistical category. The results look pretty good.”
The Vikings were led by their young pitching staff. In their final seven games in Florida, Lawrence pitchers put together a 2.87 earned run average. Lawrence pitchers also struck out 40 while walking only 14 in their final 53.1 innings. The Vikings allowed 28 hits and walked 25 on the opening day of the trip.
The Vikings have a core of three sophomore starters, Drew Doares, Atley Gay and Kelton Jenkins, leading the way.
“They looked like they were very experienced coming out,” Anderson said of that trio. “I wasn’t surprised when the games were happening, but when you look at the stats, those are surprising numbers.”
Jenkins made one start and tossed six shutout innings for a 0.00 ERA, and Gay went 1-0 in two starts (both Lawrence wins) with a 0.64 ERA. Doares went 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA and struck out 14 in 13 innings.
“The most positive thing that came from the trip, pitching-wise, was Alex Brewer solidified himself as the fourth starter, which is what we were missing last year,” Anderson said.
Brewer, a senior who started in right field last year and was a reliever, finished 2-0 with a 4.50 ERA in Florida.
“Our focus, in all honesty, was throwing two of the first three pitches for strikes and not walking anybody,” Anderson said. “Even with the tough first day, we walked 39 guys and struck out 52. It shows the guys have matured in the way we wanted them to.”
Anderson spreads the credit for that success to his three catchers, seniors Phil Wisniewski and Tanner DeBettencourt and junior Marc Linger.
“I have three excellent catchers who have taken over the pitch-calling duties,” Anderson said. “Not only do we work fast, but they see things that coaches can’t see from the dugout. Our pitch-calling has been top-notch since we got off the bus.”
While the pitching took a starring role on the trip, the Lawrence offense also posted some impressive numbers. The Vikings hit .354 for the nine games and also posted a rock solid .961 fielding percentage.
Senior outfielder Davide Harris led the Vikings with a .452 batting average and had an even better .575 on-base percentage after drawing a team-high nine walks. Senior shortstop Gabe Henriques wasn’t far behind with a .432 batting average with four doubles and 10 runs batted in and a team-high 12 runs scored.
Junior transfer Aaron Benz hit .382 with two doubles, a homer and a team-high 11 RBI. Wisniewski smacked a team-best eight doubles in nine games and hit .371.
“What we’ve been able to do this year is solidify our top six or seven guys immediately and put them out there and let them learn to play together,” Anderson said. “Our curve for winning games happened very fast. We had the same six or seven guys hitting in the same order.”
The Vikings will head to Iowa to face Central College this weekend since Whiting Field is still covered in snow. Lawrence is scheduled to play its home opener April 7 against Ripon College.
Home, sweet home
The Lawrence baseball, tennis and softball teams all had travel adventures returning home from their spring break trips in Florida.
The baseball team, which got caught in a massive traffic jam driving to Florida, narrowly missed a wreck with a semi-trailer in a snowstorm on the drive back. Fortunately, everyone arrived safely back in Appleton.
The men’s tennis team didn’t have any travel woes, but the Vikings had to hustle back from Orlando. Lawrence arrived back on campus just after 1 p.m. last Saturday and then went out to Fox Cities Racquet Club for a 4 p.m. match with Monmouth. Lawrence downed a talented Scots squad 6-3.
Softball was scheduled to fly out this past Sunday from Orlando but a nasty storm grounded the flight. Lawrence finally arrived back in Appleton late, late Sunday night. Just in time to get a few hours sleep and head to class on Monday morning.
Senior tennis player Jason Dunn is closing in the No. 2 spot on Lawrence’s career wins list.
Dunn, who is 7-5 this season, won against Monmouth and now has 50 career victories. That puts him two wins shy of passing Caleb Ray for second place on the career list. Dunn could tie Ray with a win on Saturday against Knox College.
Dunn’s older brother, Ryan, is Lawrence’s career wins leader with 60.
Editor’s Note: Inside LU Athletics is a notes package written by Lawrence University Director of Athletic Media Relations 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.