Only four months removed from a trip to the National Club Baseball Association World Series, the ISU baseball club is already gearing up for another memorable run deep into the month of May.
To keep up the success, the club needs to replace 14 players who played a key role in the run to Paducah, Ky., the site of last season's NCBA World Series.
A sizable chunk of the starting infield is gone, and Dillon Dwyer, arguably the best member of the pitching staff, has departed.
The process to regain the lost talent started when 220 players showed interest in the club, which ultimately led to 130 players registering for the club's fall league season — the team's version of a tryout.
“We want a lot of young guys to help build the team back up,” said junior president Matt Odland.
The fall league is comprised of eight teams competing against one another in a round-robin-style tournament. Based off of the standings, the club hosts a playoff bracket to determine a champion.
The league is comprised of only prospective players, while veterans coach the squads.
“As a coach, we can see how players play and react in different situations,” said senior Cole Debner.
Once the fall league ends, each coach picks four to six players from their teams and invites them back for one final tryout. From that final group, the club plans to bring on eight to 10 rookies.
The trip to nationals last season instilled plenty of confidence in the club, giving it an extra push to start this season on the right foot with the first competition at the Cap Timm Classic.
The tournament will take place at Cap Timm Field on Sept. 26 and 27.
The tournament will feature three other teams: Wisconsin-Whitewater, Minnesota State-Moorhead and Nebraska. The teams will play each other once, and the results will determine the third place and championship games.
“We want to win regionals, and it all starts with the tournament,” Odland said. “It will be a good measure to see what we have and what we still need.”
Plenty of experience was gained from the trip to Kentucky, but experience doesn’t win championships, talent does. The team will have its hands full picking new players with the influx of new talent.
“We lost a lot of key players, but we still have talent in the tank for another run to nationals,” said junior Justin Kelm.
A fourth-place finish at nationals left a bitter taste in the mouth of players on the team, and several believe they could have gone further. The team is in search of new talent that can contribute to a longer run in the end-of-the-year tournament.
“We definitely could have gone farther, but our game against [East Carolina] really killed our pitching staff,” Kelm said. “The other teams carried 10-12 pitchers, and we couldn’t compete with that.”
To get there, the club first needs to focus on replacing the talent it lost. And once it reaches that point, the club can set its eyes on another trip to the promised land.
“Our main goal is a conference championship, but once that happens, anything can happen,” Odland said.