As the weather gets warmer, it means one thing: a new season of spring sports is upon us. This year the Hastings College baseball team has high expectations after forcing upsets in the last two GPAC tournaments, beating both Doane and Morningside en route to the GPAC Championship game in 2014, and two seed Briar Cliff last season. The 2017 Broncos have high hopes to do that again and go further than just the GPAC tournament.
The Broncos are looking to regain some of the form they had in the 2015 season where they went 24-23 compared to the 19-34 record they posted last season. The Broncos will try to build around a pitching staff that posted a 6.07 overall ERA, and an offense that posted a .285 batting average.
The Broncos were picked eighth out of 10 teams in the preseason coaches poll for the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC), but consider themselves to have a good enough team to compete and win the league if they improve in some areas.
“We got some really good hitters, really solid lineup and a good defense.” Andrew Kuta, a senior pitcher, said, “I think that if we put it all together and play hard together, we could be a really good team. I don’t see a reason why we couldn’t do really well this year.”
The Broncos have put more emphasis on offense this year after losing their top hitter from last season, Mitchell Marquardt. They are hoping that the seniors, as well as the rest of the team, step up and contribute on both sides of the field.
“It’s been four great years with some great seniors my freshman year, and some great underclassmen and great seniors this year,” Santos said, “So, we have to stick together and see what we can do in the GPAC.”
The Broncos, as with every year, take pride in scheduling some of the best competition in the non-conference. They will play series all over the country including Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, and Iowa. The Broncos will play four teams that are receiving votes or ranked in the preseason top 25, including two in the first month of the season. For the first time in three years, the Broncos will not be making their annual spring break trip to Arizona to play against other teams from around the country.
“We think that we play as difficult a schedule as anyone in the Great Plains Athletic Conference,” head coach Steve Spongberg said. “So our early season becomes a difficult one in the fact that we are facing teams on the weekend that are not playing weekday games. We are seeing their top two or three pitchers, and in some cases, those teams are highly ranked. But that is not an excuse. We have to step up.”
The Broncos will have to get off to a quick start as they play Friends University in a three game set on Feb. 4. The following weekend, they will travel to Bartlesville, OK, for a four game series against (RV) Oklahoma Wesleyan, then take on No. 7 University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in the Graceland Tournament to close out the month of February. GPAC play will begin Mar. 25 at Duncan Field against Dakota Wesleyan University.