Lawrence University baseball coach Jason Anderson is working on the concept that less is more.
The Vikings lost some key players to graduation, and the size of the squad has shrunk this season. That being said, this Lawrence squad is deeper and more versatile than any team Anderson has had.
“We have fewer guys but more flexibility. I strongly believe that we are deeper. We can put a lot of lineups out there and not lose anything,” said Anderson, who enters his sixth season at Lawrence.
“It’s a whole new personality because the senior group that graduated, this had been their team since they were freshmen. We’re developing a new personality, and a new way to do things. I’m excited to see us play and see what we can do. Hopefully we can play at a high level and get some wins out of it.”
Lawrence, which went 11-24 last season, will see improvement this spring with the help of an experienced pitching staff. The Vikings return three starters with a lot of innings under their belts in juniors Drew Doares, Atley Gay and Kelton Jenkins. Doares had just one win but posted a respectable 3.93 earned run average and struck out a team-high 33 in 55 innings.
The Vikings also will get more this season from junior Philip Clark, senior John Doran and third baseman Davis Ogilvie. Gene Shipanik, who led the team with a 2.38 ERA last season, will be the first left-hander out of the bullpen for the Vikings.
“Over the last two years, they’ve gotten a lot of experience in terms of knowing what does work and what doesn’t work,” Anderson said. “We were OK last year, but confidence-wise,we’re a little bit better this year and ready to take some steps forward.”
Lawrence returns four position starters on the infield and two more in the outfield.
Shortstop Gabe Henriques was lost to graduation, but the Vikings return Ogilvie at third, Sam Kossow at first, Marc Linger behind the plate and the combination of Joel Birch and Gabe Warshaw at second. Both Warshaw (.316) and Ogilvie (.312) hit better than .300 last season, and Ogilvie belted a team-best three homers in 2013.
“In the infield we are as talented as we’ve ever been,” Anderson said.
The Vikings also have options on the infield with some newcomers. When Ogilvie is pitching, freshmen Brandon Klar or Brandon Vamarasi could slide over to the hot corner, and Vamarasi also should see action behind the plate. The other newcomer is junior Luke Zablocki at first. Zablocki is a starting offensive lineman for the Lawrence football team, but swings a big bat and could see time at first or as the designated hitter.
“(Zablocki) swings it really, really well,” Anderson said. “I expect him to see some innings at first base, but he will be a formidable DH for us.”
Lawrence returns senior Aaron Benz in right and junior Jake Gordon in center. Benz hit .294 last season and drove in a team-high 24 runs. Gordon is a superb defender in center and a threat on the bases. Junior Dan Taylor, who saw action both pitching and in the outfield, could take over for Davide Harris in left. Taylor hit .348 and had three doubles in just 23 at-bats in 2013.
Sophomore Max Markoff and freshman Craig Batchelor are the likely candidates to back up across the outfield.
“I’m happy with the experience we have coming back,” Anderson said. “I do believe our freshmen will capably fill the spots of the guys that graduated.”
Lawrence opens its season on March 21 in Tucson, Ariz., against Hamline University, and the Vikings are scheduled to begin play at home on April 5.
“Everyone has worked really hard in the off-season. This is probably the best group I’ve had in terms of work ethic,” Anderson said. “I think we have a chance to be pretty good, but you don’t know until you play.”