For the Emerson men's baseball team, spring break meant hardly that, as they spent their week off at the Russ Matt Invitational in Winter Haven, Fla. Now, with a week of games and a trip to Disney World under their belt, the Lions are ready to take the 2009 GNAC head on.
"We're definitely way more confident now," said senior captain Peter Hall, who hit .454 with five RBI on the week. "We put up decent numbers and showed great improvement, but I think more importantly we came together as a team. Spending that week down there helped us a lot."
Led by senior Peter Karl, who hit .471 over the week and led the team with 16 hits, 11 runs and two homers, the Lions were able to jump out to a 2-0 record to start off the trip. Sophomore Brian Kitson also carried the load for the Lions, hitting .393 with a team high eight RBIs over the tournament.
Unfortunately, after the two wins against Daniel Webster, the Lions hit a cold stretch, dropping their next five in a row. A 19-4 loss to Drew University was followed by losses to Fitchburg State, Elms College of Mass. and Wisconsin Lutheran College.
Emerson was able to get back on track, however, thanks to a 12-5 win over Wisconsin Lutheran in the second game of the double header, then went on to split the remaining two games against Albion College and Newbury College. All in all, the Lions posted a 4-6 record, identical to that of last year. Still, Hall says that though their record didn't improve on the surface, the team has made huge strides.
"Bottom line is, we finished 4-6 last year with seniors and guys that have been on the team for a while," said the TV/video major. "This year, we did it with freshmen and a lot of young guys. That's huge-it means that we've gotten a lot younger while keeping the same skill level, and those guys will only keep getting better."
Hall has every reason to be happy with the effort turned in by the Lions' first year players, including pitcher Jeff Kolb. Kolb turned in two strong starts for the purple and gold, striking out seven in 8 1/3 innings. Other freshman highlights included Ryan Garber and Austin Fontanella, who had nine and seven hits respectively, and catcher Geoffrey Lopes, who threw out five base stealers in eight games.
"It's really encouraging," said broadcast journalism major Kolb. "For us young guys to go out there and play as well as we did, it's really good news. Hopefully this carries over into the regular season, and you can bet we'll do everything we can to make that happen.
After spending the week in southern Florida, the Lions are set to kick off their regular season on March 23 against Gordon College. After finishing last season 9-20 and a first round loss in the GNAC tournament, Emerson feels much more prepared for this season than they ever have been before.
"We're ready," said Hall. "There's no question in our minds. We can compete, and we can win. We're ready this year, and there's nothing that can get in our way, except maybe Disney World."