38 returning members of the Trinity men’s baseball team share the collective memory of quietly sitting in the dugout on May 26, 2015 brokenhearted after falling 10-7 in the College World Series semifinals to Wisconsin-La Crosse.
For the Tigers, who are currently ranked as the top Division III team in the nation by D3baseball.com, this poignant memory continues to drive their every pitch and at-bat, as their spring season quickly accelerates toward the conference season and the playoffs.
For 17 of the Tigers, most of whom compose the entire starting lineup, there are increasingly fewer days left in their collegiate careers. This core group of seniors has played together for four years and collectively has redefined the baseball culture at Trinity.
While lots of baseball teams across the nation have charisma and camaraderie, there is something sets the Trinity team apart from their competitors.
“We win, and we play each and every game for each other,” said senior left fielder and unfaltering cleanup hitter Jeremy Wolf.
Batting 5-5 on Tuesday night’s game against Hardin-Simmons, Wolf led his team into their 27th season win, contributing three runs and four RBIs to reach a team-best 45 total runs on the season for the Tigers.
Wolf has proven to be a critical asset for the Tigers’ offense in his final season, yet he is quick to credit his fellow teammates for the team’s record-breaking success over the past two seasons.
Such teammates include senior Connor Moore, who Wolf has played alongside since his first year when they both seized opportunity to compete for a starting position. Moore also spoke of the unique atmosphere that has come to define the Trinity baseball program.
“Our senior class has set the standard by exhibiting great leadership and work ethic day in and day out and I think the younger guys really feed off that,” Moore said.
Senior first baseman and previous SCAC Hitter of the Week, Nick Jewett also identified that the team’s core chemistry has been a significant factor of their quest for success.
“Chemistry creates a sort of comfort level for the whole team,” Moore said.
This enthused environment at practice, in the locker room, on the bus, and in the late innings of a game has proved to be especially crucial for when the Tigers put the ball in the hands of underclassmen pitchers. As they stand on the mound, they are quite literally surrounded by their senior teammates, giving them both the confidence and support to excel.
Junior pitchers Troy Nelson, Chris Tate and Dylan McGee have stepped up to the mound and delivered, as have sophomore pitcher Blake Frampton and first-year Andrew Hoffmann. After losing several key pitchers last season, these new faces on the mound have embraced the high standards set by the senior class by stepping into a larger role on the team.
Following in the footsteps of senior pitchers, Mike Walker, Ryan Gray and Teddy Turner, the Trinity bullpen has continued to challenge hitters with their pitching consistency and tactical sharpness.
“We have a very talented first year class and they have not only contributed to the team on the field, but they also have been great teammates and student athletes who represent this school in a positive manner,” Jewett said.
After four years of watching the hardworking culture and jovial camaraderie of his team grow and change from left field, Wolf commented on the uniqueness of his senior class’ …..identity both on and off the field.
“It’s all about trust,” said Wolf. “We don’t care who we play, we…. just want to play the situation and win to prove to each other that we playing to our full potential.”
The seniors have already made their mark on the baseball program with their school record nationally.
“Our senior class has set the standard by exhibiting great leadership and work ethic day in and day out and I think the younger guys really feed off that which is great,” said Wolf.
The energetic and lighthearted nature of the Tigers’ dugout has been translated into on-field momentum despite the length of the baseball season. With the goal of a national championship on the minds and hearts of the entire roster, it is evident that the Tigers expect nothing but the best from each other.
“We have a one ultimate goal this year to win a national championship, and we want to leave this same mentality that guys before us have left for us, for these younger guys to grow upon,” Jewett said.
He went on to comment not just on the team’s success, but also acknowledged that the team has made mistakes recently that have jeopardized their conference standing.
Last Sunday, conference opponent Schreiner University edged the Tigers 2-1 despite the fact that the Tigers had dominated the doubleheader contest with Schreiner on the previous day. Stranding eleven players on the bases throughout the course of the game, the Tigers snapped their nine game winning streak.
“It comes down to mental strength, because that is the ideal preparation no matter where we play,” said Wolf. “[We are] just now hitting our stride, and even though we are the team to beat, we can still get better.”
This past Tuesday, the Tigers travelled to Abilene to face McMurry University and Hardin-Simmons University in a doubleheader match-up.
The Tigers played an errorless 9 innings against McMurry, eventually winning 7-0 thanks to the big bats of Wolf, Jewett, and their fellow senior, second baseman Colin Serkowski.
“We’re taking care of one game at a time, and we just need to continue to focus,” Moore said. “Guys are swinging it really well right now and pitchers are doing their job, so hopefully we can keep that up.”
Mike Walker delivered a six-hit shutout to improve his record to 5-0 in his season. Walker denied the McMurry batters of walks, struck out four batters, and threw the first solo shutout of the season for the Tiger pitchers.
In the second game of the day, the Tigers surged ahead once again to claim their 27th win of the 2016 season and defeat Hardin-Simmons 16-4 on Tuesday finishing the evening with 31 total hits and four home runs.
Butler went 3-5 in the batter’s box adding five RBI, and scoring four runs in the game while senior outfielder Andrew Waters went 4-5 at the plate, hitting two doubles, and contributing three runs.
Returning to their home field, the Tigers look to re-energize their winning streak this weekend in a conference series with Texas Lutheran University and improve their 27-5 season record.
From behind home plate, senior catcher Drew Butler is pleased with the progress of the season thus far.
“We are just excited to play competitive games and fight for a national championship. Our team is clicking on all cylinders right now, so we look forward to battling the next few weeks and through the playoffs,” Butler said.
The Tigers upcoming matchup features the two top teams in the SCAC conference, as the TLU Bulldogs will contest the top ranked Tigers at 7 p.m. on Friday and 1 p.m. on Saturday.