The University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point baseball team will play its first home games of the season in two double headers on Thursday and Friday against division foe UW-La Crosse.
Stevens Point started the year compiling a 7-3 record in their two games in Minneapolis against Gustavus Adolphus, and in their trip to Florida against teams from around the country.
UWSP traveled to UW-Stout for a pair of double headers last weekend, winning 3-of-4.
In two games on Sunday, the Pointer offense woke up, racking up 32 runs.
“Our primary struggles prior to Sunday had been with our offensive inefficiency,” said Pointer Head Coach Pat Bloom. “We feel a little better about ourselves in that department now.”
The Pointers now hold a record of 10-4 going into their first home series. Ranked number 11 in the country in Division III, Stevens Point has very high hopes for this season.
“Having such high expectations for this team is like a double edged sword. On the one hand, we can all expect a high level of play from one another, but at the same time our opponents will give us their best effort,” said sophomore centerfielder Casey Barnes.
Many players have really stepped up so far this year, putting up impressive numbers early in the season.
One of the early standouts is Barnes, who is in the top three in almost every offensive category for the Pointers with 12 RBIs, 22 hits, 37 total bases and a team best .431 batting average.
“I contribute my success up to this point to my teammates,” Barnes said. “A lot of the guys are extremely competitive, so it’s like a friendly contest to one-up each other at the plate. All of us feed off of each other’s success.”
Other players certainly have stepped up as well. Junior infielder Dan Douglas has a .400 batting average. Junior catcher Ryan Schilter has been hitting .380 with a team-high six steals and has provided stellar defense behind the plate.
Stevens Point’s opponent for their home opener will be UW-La Crosse. For a team that finished second to last in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference just two years ago, the Eagles are putting a strong year together.
“La Crosse is a real sleeper team that has a lot of experience on the mound and at the plate this year,” Bloom said. “We will certainly need to play our best baseball in all facets of the game in order to win the series.”
La Crosse has a record of 12-6 going into Saturday, posting a perfect 4-0 record in conference.
The Eagles are led by senior first basemen Jay Fanta, who has a team-high 32 hits, 16 RBIs and a blistering .464 batting average, which is leading the conference.
Junior outfielder Brooks Braga has also had a hot start to the year, contributing a .390 batting average and a team-high two homeruns, 19 runs scored and an on-base percentage of .514.
UWL will certainly give the Pointers a tough matchup, but the toughest part of the season is just beginning: conference play.
“As always, our league is going to be very competitive. Regardless of how good each team is on paper, the four-game series that we play are a grind,” Bloom said.
“As a team we need to push each other, all 30 of us. If we stay together and push each other to put forth our best effort in every game, I think we could do something very special this year,” Barnes said.