Jan 23, 2018

2018 Baseball Season Preview

A Winning Tradition

  • NCAA D-III National Champions (2004)
  • Eight NCAA D-III National Tournaments (2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009)
  • One NCAA Regional Championship (West 2004)
  • 10 Northwest Conference Championships (1997, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009)
  • 19 straight seasons .500 or better (1996-2014)
  • Nine Top 30 national rankings (2000, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2014, 2018)
  • 23 All-Americans
  • One National Pitcher of the Year (Scott Hyde - 2004)
  • One D3Baseball.com All-West Region Rookie of the Year (Matt Voelzke - 2017)
  • 10 Academic All-Americans
  • One NCAA National Coach of the Year
  • One NCAA Region Coach of the Year
  • 10 Northwest Conference Coaches of the Year
  • Five NAIA District Tournaments (1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994)
  • Three NAIA Disctrict Championships (1991, 1992, 1993)
  • Five NAIA Regional Tournaments (1991, 1992, 1993, 1997, 1998)
  • Two NAIA Distrcit Coach of the Years
  • 22 players signed to professional contracts
  • Three Ad Rutschman Small College Athlete of the Year Finalists (Derrick Jones - 2005, Scott Hyde - 2004, Eric Bell - 2003)
  • One Slats Gill Coach of the Year Award (Pat Bailey - 2004 finalist)
  • One George Fox Pasero Team of the Year (2004)

By: Alex Plusquellec

NEWBERG, Ore. -- The goal for the 2018 George Fox baseball team is progression, and head coach Marty Hunter likes where his Bruins sit with the season on the horizon.

Hunter and his staff are pleased with the culture and enthusiasm of their team – a young but seasoned squad that finished just under .500 a year ago. Hunter admits the Bruins got off to a slow start last year before things started to gel at the halfway point.

"Early in the season we were inconsistent," said Hunter of a 2017 campaign that saw the Bruins finish 12-12 in Northwest Conference play, tied for fourth. "About the time we got to the halfway point of the season, we were playing much better. Our pitching was better, the defense was better and we were finding ways to score runs."

Hunter and his staff like what they've seen in the areas of effort and attitude, feeling the players – particularly the younger ones – are in good shape both physically and mentally to take on a schedule littered with potential Division III tournament teams.

"With the guys who were young last year, the biggest thing [they need to do] is make that big step up improvement wise, and experience last year will help them," Hunter said. "They are stronger now. They have a better idea of the college game and what we are trying to do."

Sophomores Sam Swenson and Matt Voelzke finished second and third, respectively, in total at-bats a year ago and will look to build on productive freshman seasons. Voelzke, named D3baseball.com All-West Region Rookie of the Year in 2017, hit .288 and drove in 23 runs. As a pitcher, he led the Bruins with five saves and an ERA of 2.77.

Swenson's freshman campaign was impactful as well. The first baseman was named All-NWC Honorable Mention a year ago after hitting .262 and driving in 22 runs.

Three of the six Bruins named to All-NWC teams last year have departed. Brandon Wileman, Zak Muenster and Dustin Wells have graduated, along with experienced starters Connor Newell and Andrew Reichenbach. With positions open and leadership opportunities presenting themselves, Hunter anticipates competition to drive the development and cohesiveness of this group.

"There are going to be lots of guys playing. It's going to be a collective effort by everybody," he said. "I think we are going to be in good shape."

The pitching staff returns a handful of experienced arms in Alex Jondal, Liam Kent, Mikah Takashige and AJ Atherton. All four logged valuable innings a year ago and will be relied upon again. Cameron Jack, a transfer from Mt. Hood Community College, will help bolster a rotation that lost a valuable arm in Wells.

The addition of Jack to complement the pieces in place encourages Hunter, who cited the need for the staff as a whole to be sharp.

"Collectively as a pitching staff, all of them together need to do well. You can't get through it with just one or two guys," Hunter said. "You have to have a group of guys who can contribute."

With some positions possibly in flux, the need for leadership still holds true. Hunter has no problem putting the onus on a group of upperclassmen who have been around the program and produced on the diamond.

"Kyle Esquerra has really done a good job, and Houston Thom has done a great job providing leadership," Hunter said. The development of Swenson and Voelzke gives the coaching staff reason to believe the freshman class will follow their lead.

"Really, it's their turn," Hunter explained. "It is their turn to lead and their turn to play well."

The Bruins open play in Texas Feb. 1-4 with four games at the Concordia Texas Baseball Classic against Concordia of Texas, Schreiner (doubleheader) and Rhodes.

George Fox will then host conference opponents in a nonconference tournament Feb. 9-12 before kicking off the NWC season on Feb. 17 at home against Lewis & Clark.