The 2014 Maranatha baseball team will showcase a variety of new faces and leaders this year, with a large number of younger players coming in with a wealth of previous experience. “This will definitely be a team that comes into the season already knowledgeable and experienced in the game,” remarks six year head coach Gary Garrison. “In the past ten years that I’ve been at Maranatha, this is probably the largest group of experienced players that I’ve been able to work with.”
These new players tally a total of eight freshmen, all of which enter with quality high school and club experience. “Most of our new guys have played at very competitive, pre-college levels,” states Garrison. “As we interact more, I am ecstatic to hear that a lot of our freshmen have played long seasons under good coaching with mass amounts of practice time.”
This year’s roster boasts one grad student, two seniors, and two juniors, while the other eleven slots are made up of three sophomores and eight freshmen. Bright freshmen prospects include Micah Burdett, Greg Scheiderer, and Caleb Prigge. Burdett (Newnan, GA) will compete for the top pitcher spot, and possesses a strong arm that produces a quality fastball with good velocity. “Burdett really pitches with intelligence. He also can provide quality defense for us in the outfield,” says Garrison. Scheiderer, a freshman from Toledo, OH, comes in with good experience and will be an immediate contributor to the pitching staff. Prigge (Watertown, WI) also gives the Crusaders more quality pitching, as well as high-level infield skills.
Key returners for this year’s team include veteran Galin Balinski, junior Cody Borland, and sophomore Tim Rogers. Balinski (Mountainhome, PA) offers a good glove at second base, and will provide good range for the Crusader defense. Borland (Oakley, CA) has become a very efficient center fielder, and also can pitch in the rotation. “Cody gets a great jump on the ball from center field,” remarks Coach Garrison. “He plays some really good defense and has great range.” Sophomore Tim Rogers (Willmar, MN) will be a natural, quiet leader for the Crusaders this year, and plays with quick hands at the shortstop position.
This year’s squad will possess a renewed confidence as they look to be more competitive in each of their 31 games on the schedule. “We’re not playing as many NACC teams as we have in years past, meaning that we can match up against a larger variety of opponents that will compete well with us,” remarks Garrison. The Crusaders will lace it up against only six NACC schools throughout the course of this season, while the other fourteen games range from Chicago, IL, to Knoxville, TN.
The Crusaders will begin their season with a week-long spring trip at the end of March that will begin in Lincoln, IL, and end up in Monroe, TN. This trip will feature five doubleheader games in seven days, and is a great way to bond as a team at the beginning of the season. “The spring trip at the start of the year is always a lot of fun,” states Garrison. “We get to play a lot of baseball, develop unity as a team, and even take some time to see the Louisville Slugger Museum in Louisville, KY.”
Key match-ups for the rest of the year include hosting NCCAA Midwest Regional foe Lincoln Christian University on Wednesday, April 2nd, as well as a trip to US Cellular Field in Chicago, IL, for the second straight year to take on the Illinois Institute of Technology Scarlet Hawks on Saturday, May 3rd.
Overall, Coach Garrison is excited about the youthful energy and high level of confidence his young players possess going into the season. The roster looks to produce a high-quality offensive team that will look to the strength of its pitching on the defensive side of the field. “As we grow closer together as a team throughout the season, I hope that we can learn not only how to become a little better at baseball, but that we can also grow closer to the Lord and encourage each other to do our best in everything that we do,” says Garrison. “Obviously, we would love to get to the NCCAA World Series, but ultimately, if we can maintain a positive testimony both on and off the field while striving to compete to the best of our ability in every game, then this season will be a success.”