The six seniors on the Lawrence University baseball team are banking on this season being worth the wait.
After struggling through a tough first two seasons with the Vikings, the core of the 2012 team was a group of juniors. Those players helped Lawrence put together a seven-game win streak, the longest since 1980, and the most victories (14) in a season since 2006.
“They are about as special a group of guys as there can be to me. They were my first recruiting class,” Lawrence coach Jason Anderson said. “We’ve been through some really hard times together, some real challenges. They’ve become better men because of it.”
The group of seniors is headed by four-year starters Gabe Henriques, Davide Harris and Phil Wisniewski. It also includes regulars Tanner DeBettencourt, Alex Brewer and Richie Foreman.
“They’ve learned every lesson that I hoped they would,” Anderson said. “I hoped that we could have won more games, but maybe we can remedy that this season.”
Lawrence, which opens its season on March 14 with 12 games in Fort Myers, Fla., went 14-21 a season ago and returns that core of seasoned players.
Henriques returns to start at shortstop after hitting .358 last season with five doubles, five triples, a homer and 25 runs batted in. Harris made the move from second base to left field last season and will again start in the outfield. Harris hit .309 last season and scored a team-best 37 runs. Harris, who had six doubles, three triples and 14 RBIs, also stole a team-high 17 bases.
Wisniewski and DeBettencourt join junior Marc Linger to form Lawrence’s catching trio. Wisniewski led this group by hitting .309 last season with 10 doubles, three homers and 21 RBIs.
Brewer started in right field last season and hit .244 with a pair of homers and 13 RBIs. He is likely to see more action on the mound this season after posting a 2-0 record in relief in 2012. Foreman, who has been a reserve throughout his career, will push for playing time in the outfield during his final season.
The Vikings also return a mix of veteran players and outstanding young talent.
Junior Sam Kossow is back at first base after hitting .306 with five doubles, a homer and 15 RBIs last season. Junior Aaron Benz will be in the mix at first base and right field after transferring from UW-Oshkosh.
Sophomore Joel Birch, who hit .263 and drove in 20 runs last season, will see action at second along with freshman Gabe Warshaw. Sophomore Davis Ogilvie is at third, along with sophomores Dan Taylor and Jake Zdrojewski.
Sophomore Jake Gordon started in center field last season and hit .337, drove in 13 runs and swiped 11 bases in 2012.
“We’re still very young in most key areas,” Anderson said. “I’m optimistic but our league is tough and playing in Wisconsin is tough so you have to come to play every day.”
Lawrence also returns a youthful but deep pitching staff. The Vikings used four freshmen as their starting rotation last season and all are back for 2013. That group of Atley Gay (2-2, 4.66 ERA), Andrew Doares (4-6, 6.09 ERA, two shutouts), Kelton Jenkins (2-4, 5.36 ERA) and Ogilvie (1-3, 7.01 ERA) form the backbone of the pitching staff.
“Our pitching staff is young but we are very experienced,” Anderson said.
The Vikings also return key relievers in John Doran, Phil Clark and Taylor. Brian King, who was the team’s No. 1 starter in 2011, also has returned to Lawrence to give the bullpen even more depth. Rookie Miles Link will see action from the bullpen and be a backup on the infield.
“My hope for this season is to be in every game we play,” Anderson said.
Two records fall
The Lawrence track team broke a pair of records at UW-Stevens Point Last Chance Meet this past Saturday.
Freshman JP Ranumas broke his own record in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8.67 seconds. He set the mark of 8.76 earlier this season.
The distance medley relay team of Dan Thoresen, Tyler Herman, Mike Mangian and Sam Stevens set a Lawrence record with a time of 10:25.97. That broke the record of 10:33.27 that Thoresen, Mangian, Stevens and Cam Blegen set back in 2011.
Fencers take 10th
The Lawrence fencing team turned in a solid 10th-place finish at the 21-team Midwest Fencing Conference Championships this past weekend at Notre Dame.
The top individual finisher for the Vikings was Graham Jones, who was 10th in men’s sabre. The sabre contingent also led the way for Lawrence by finishing fourth during the team tournament. The Vikings fell to Michigan 5-1 in the third-place match.
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.