Archers baseball winds up for regionals this spring

Posted on 06 February 2018 by Jordan Morris

New coaches, players create ‘family’ atmosphere as the team aims for the top

BY : MELISSA WILKINSON
Editor-in-Chief

Pre-season practice has begun for STLCC’s baseball team. The Archers will begin playing conference games this month to prepare for their shot at regionals in May. According to head coach Scott Goodrich, what makes his present team unique is the amount of new players. Only one third of the team is comprised of returning players, meaning the vast majority are college freshmen.

“We like to have some veterans, some leadership from the older players and we just don’t have a lot of that this year,” said Goodrich. “But it’s not something we’re worried about. It’s actually something we’re excited about because we get a lot of these guys for two years.”

Goodrich has been head coach for the Archers for five years, preceded by 11 years as an assistant coach. Goodrich said his go-to strategy to prepare his mostly new team for regionals is simple: play, play, play.

“We have to put ourselves in new situations and learn from our mistakes,” said Goodrich. “If we can throw strikes and make plays, we’re gonna give ourselves a chance to win every day.”

But throwing strikes might just be the least of their worries. According to Goodrich, pitching is one of the current team’s biggest strengths.

Goodrich’s list of players to watch include Connor Cline, who pitched the most last season out of all returning players, and Jack Kane and Austin DesRoche, sophomores who played third base and shortstop respectively last season but are moving up to become strong pitchers this spring.

According to Cline, his personal strengths as a pitcher include being repetitive with his pitches, spotting up well and throwing hard. Cline, who is completing his general transfer degree this spring, described the current team as “more of a family” than last year.

“Culture-wise we have a closer team. More connected. We’re a more balanced team. Last year we were more bat and pitching heavy,” said Cline.

Goodrich said the warmer than average weather this winter has helped the quality of practice for his
team immensely.

“We’ve been very lucky. We’ve been outside eight or nine times already which is really unheard of in January,” said Goodrich. “We’re trying to create as many game situations as we can and get used to game speed. When we start playing games in a few weeks we need to be ready to go and not be caught by surprise by the weather.”

It’s not just most of the players that are new this year; the Archers welcomed two new assistant coaches in fall 2017: Zac Graefser and Joe Simokaitis.

Simokaitis played for the University of Nebraska before spending over seven years with the Cubs and the Mariners. According to Goodrich, his experience with college and professional level baseball will aid the team in their quest for victory at regionals.

Graefser played for Meramec in 2004 before playing two years in Southern Arkansas. He previously coached the Archers, parting after six years to move to England with his wife.

“We ended up moving over there for my wife’s job. Luckily I knew someone who worked for Major League Baseball over there and the cards just all kind of fell into place,” said Graefser. “Moving back was a very difficult decision but it was the right decision. We miss [England] every day.”

Graefser said he was excited to be back on campus. In addition to serving as pitching coach for the Archers, Graefser continues to work for Major League Baseball assisting with coach and player development with MLB-sanctioned academies throughout Europe.

Dustin Buckner, who plays first and third base, said the new coaches are helping to prepare the team more in the off-season.

“We’re practicing hard,” said Buckner. “We’re more together than we were last year. Everyday we get better.”

According to Graefser, the team is very strong offensively but needs more experience with its young core in order to get used to the speed of the game. Graefser said he sees promise in many of his boys for a future career in professional baseball, but it will come down to how hard they work and how great a dedication they have to the game.

“I tell them all the time, no coach has ever developed a player,” said Graefser. “We give them the tools, the ideas, the key to walk through the door, but ultimately it’s up to them for self development, self preservation and the mentality to go further in this game.”

To make it to regionals, the Archers will have to be in the top four out of nine participating teams.

According to Goodrich, the teams to watch out for are ones that have won before in the past: Maplewood, Crowder, Jefferson and North Central to name a few.

“When we get to that first weekend in May, our job is to be as prepared as we can possibly be. Anybody can win. It’s just going to be who’s playing best at the end of the year,” said Goodrich.

Despite any concerns about new players or getting used to the game, Cline said he isn’t worried about his team’s chances.

“I definitely think we’re going to make it,” said Cline.

The Archers will play their first game of the season Feb. 9 at Bevill State Community College.

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