By Ariel Christy
“We’re not going to lay out in the sun everyday,” says GRCC Head Baseball Coach Mike Cupples of the upcoming spring trip to Florida.
The Raiders will head to Tallahassee, Florida over spring break to play 12 games in seven days. They will have double headers all but two days. The Raiders will face teams from Florida, Georgia and Alabama.
Freshman catcher Steve Hazel is looking forward to seeing all of those teams.
“I’m excited to see the teams and see the differences between baseball up here and down there,” says Hazel. “We’re a good team, and shooting for the best.”
“We are trying to prepare as much as possible for Florida,” says Cupples. “We’ve been going live at practice every Friday with pitchers, batters and catchers. We’ll be doing more of that in the upcoming week.”
Cupples explained that there will be a different style of play on the trip with new bats being used. The bats aren’t as light as some of the aluminum ones being used and are more similar to wooden bats. The goal is for the new bats to reduce some of the injuries associated with the lighter bats, but so far he has seen lower scores because of them.
Besides the concern over bats, Cupples expressed some of his concerns being young on the pitching mound.
“Right now we have only one pitcher with innings,” says Cupples. “We’ll need some freshman to step up.”
Pitcher and returning sophomore Zach Stephens is looking to forward to the Florida trip.
“I’m glad to be able to get outside down there,” says Stephens. “They’re all really good teams and it’s fun to play against them.”
Aside from doing well in Florida Stephens expressed big goals for the upcoming season.
“We want to win the conference, get past regionals and go to nationals,” says Stephens.
These goals are definitely becoming a team mindset and all of the players are confident they can accomplish them, including sophomore outfielder Jason Hockemeyer.
“We talk about winning the conference and going to nationals everyday in practice,” says Hockemeyer. “If we’re going to win, this is the year to do it.”
Although Cupples hasn’t expressed a conference championship or bid to nationals yet, he is confident in his young team.
“We try to have two players at each position with equal talent,” says Cupples. “We are a young team but we can balance. If we compete and play hard every game, I can’t complain.”
When the Raiders return from Florida they have several games lined up against schools such as Ancilla College and Aquinas College, however weather will be a factor. If such games are postponed due to weather conditions the Raiders will have to prepare to head south again and face schools in Tennessee or other.