Baseball and softball to practice in warmer climates

After spending four weeks of practice inside, both the baseball and softball teams are anxious to head south over spring break and finally play on an actual field in fresh air.

The baseball team will begin their season by playing 12 games, 10 varsity and two JV, at the Russ Matt Greater Phoenix Invitational in Mesa, Ariz. The team will be there for 10 days and will leave on March 6.

This is the third year the team has traveled to Arizona. They will be taking all 37 players and will travel over 20 hours together on the bus.

Head Baseball Coach Ben Blake is excited to get outside and see his players in action playing together.

“I want to go down there and try to figure out what we have as a team,” Blake said. “I want to see how we’re going to fare. We have a pretty mixed schedule and I’d like to come home 8-2, but 6-4 might be realistic as well.”

Senior Joe Hajduch is looking forward to the team bonding on the trip.

“Team bonding is very important in all athletics, but especially baseball and I think our team, especially the upper classmen we have right now, are great at letting guys know they are welcome,” Hajduch said. “The bus ride is over 20 hours long so you really get to know guys. It brings us together as a unit.”

Although the baseball and softball teams officially started practice Feb. 1, the baseball team got a head start. Blake’s brother, a member of the Cleveland Indians, recently built a hitting and fielding facility in Indianola called the Yard, so the team has been able to get in time before practice.

“Normally we come in on February and it’s our first day, but for most of our guys we were on day 30,” Blake said. “Our guys have had a head start getting swings in on their own and getting pitchers on the mound.”

Practice for the baseball team has been good, but is limited with being in the gym.

“Overall, everything’s going pretty well that you can do in a gym,” Blake said. “We’re taking a lot of swings, but it’s just a matter of trying to put our guys in game situations even though you’re in a gym or in a cage. Probably the toughest part about it is giving the outfielders anything to do; it’s hard to get fly balls and get a feel for reading fly balls when you’re in a gym with a 40 foot ceiling.”

As far as the team goes, the Storm only lost three seniors from last year and is looking for contributions from the younger players.

“From the position side we’re pretty young, but we returned a lot of guys that have a year of college baseball under their belt,” Blake said. “We’re also looking for our group of senior pitchers to come through. They have an opportunity to step up and we’re kind of depending on that group.”

Junior Daniel Murphy says the underclassmen have brought a lot to the team so far.

“There’s been a lot of competition with a bunch of new guys,” Murphy said. “The upper class is being pushed by the younger guys, which should turn out well.”

Junior Justin Stoffa is looking forward to seeing everyone develop their game as the season goes on.

“We lost three seniors, which isn’t very many, so we’ve kind of got some high expectations this year,” Stoffa said. “I’m looking forward to seeing who steps up and who starts to play well and to see how the team progresses.”

In the conference, Blake predicts Wartburg and Luther to be two of the better teams, but believes their team can play with anyone.

“I think we’re as good as anybody and I think we can compete with those two teams as well,” Blake said. “We’re as deep as anybody in our pitching staff, so we can compete with a lot of teams. I would hope to finish in the upper third, but is just depends on how we play and how we perform.”

As the team waits for Arizona, they are working on concentration while staying in the gym.

“At this point we’re really trying to keep their focus and make sure they understand that they’ve got to keep working hard even though they’ve been in the gym for nearly a month,” Blake said.

The softball team will be heading to the Rebel Spring Games in Kissimmee, Fla., taking 20 of their 26 players. The team will also be gone 10 days, leaving March 6, and will play 14 games.

This is the 13th year Head Softball Coach Henry Christowski has been to this tournament. He is also excited to be in warm weather and to get a better idea of where players fit.

“I’m looking forward to getting out of this snow,” Christowski said. “We have only four seniors and two juniors which means there is going to have to be some contributions from underclassmen. We’re kind of looking to see what these people will do under fire.”

Senior Calie Hohneke is anxious to see what the team has to offer.

“I’m just excited to take all the talent and excitement to the field,” Hohneke said. “I’m looking forward to having a team that wants to succeed, one that wants to go far and won’t settle. We have a very talented and committed team.”

Christowski is also looking forward to making an annual visit in Florida.

“While we are in Florida, we will pay a visit to Wayne Carse and his wife Jimmie at their Orlando home,” Christowski said. “Wayne and his wife always have a fantastic catered-in meal for the players and coaches along with their great hospitality. This is always a highlight of the Florida trip.”

Storm softball has also been doing as much as they can in practice while in they gym.

“We’ve been very pleased with how practice has been going,” Christowski said. “The big problem right now is everybody is getting tired of the gym. We’re looking forward to getting outside and performing in game situations.”

The Storm have been concentrating more on fundamentals in practice through drills, and have also been focusing on hitting each day. Senior Nicole May thinks practices have been going well, and is excited to see how the positions turn out.

“This year we are all working hard for a starting position and I think that is our biggest challenge-trying to figure out who will start and getting comfortable playing with those people,” May said.

Coach Christowski has been pleased with the Storm’s positive attitude, work ethic and condition.

“This team is in the best physical condition of any that I have coached here at Simpson,” Christowski said. “Our players have made a strong commitment to prepare themselves to compete at their highest level. Their commitment to the physical side has also improved their mental discipline and their ability to improve on those skills needed to compete in softball.”

Christowski has also been impressed with the tight-knit behavior and attitude of the team, which is made up of four seniors, two juniors, nine sophomores and 11 freshmen.

“The quality of this supporting cast causes me to be very optimistic about this season,” Christowski said. “We have several players competing for the starting roles at four varsity starting positions.”

Senior Shyann Warrick is anxious to get out and play with the team.

“I’m just looking forward to the competition and getting to know the girls even better than I know them now,” Warrick said. “I’m looking at having as much fun as I can.”

In the conference, Christowski gives the edge to Wartburg, with Coe, Central, Luther and Loras also being challenging teams, even though he says you can’t count out the other half of the conference.

“The teams that aren’t going to be in the top half aren’t going to be pushovers,” Christowski said. “It’s just really a tough softball conference.”

Christowski thinks the Storm will definitely be a team to keep your eye on.

“I believe they will be an exciting team to watch with their speed, power and athleticism,” Christowski said.