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Baseball schedules elite competition to prepare for RMAC
Ryan Seefus
Antelope Staff
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"We decided to do whatever it takes to get regional contests in against high quality opponents from good conferences," Day said.

Nationally ranked Wayne State, among others, stand in the way of the Lopers

The UNK baseball team has their sights set high after a disappointing season last year where they failed to be named the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference tournament champions for the first time in three years. Although the baseball team starts their season in early February, they are applying the “it’s never too early” attitude to their goal of getting to the regional tournament. The coaching staff began strategizing how to put this year’s team in the best possible position to reach their goals as soon as the season ended on a sour note last year. “We decided to do whatever it takes to get regional contests in against high quality opponents from good conferences,” said head coach Damon Day.

They realized that playing superb competition early on would give the team the opportunity to be more successful on two fronts. On one side, beating elite non-conference teams puts UNK in a better position for the postseason. “Our goal is to beat good teams early, so that when they go on to have a good season, our rankings will be higher, helping our chances in getting an automatic bid to regionals,” Day said. If they received an automatic bid it would mean that based on their record and regional rankings they would have a seed in the regional tournament regardless of how they fare in the conference tournament.

Also, by scheduling Wayne State and Augustana, two teams that UNK could see in the regional tournament, the baseball team could benefit by having played them before the postseason.  “When we play a team we could see at the end of the year in regionals, we will be able to compare the stats and scouting report we got from playing them to information we get from other teams,” Day said. Baseball coaches rely on matchups between hitters and pitchers to decide who will play where and when to put pitchers into games.  This knowledge gained in the pre-RMAC season could give UNK an advantage in regionals, catapulting them to a Division II World Series berth.

On the other side, by playing tougher competition in non-conference games while other RMAC teams are playing weaker opponents, the baseball team will be ready to compete at a higher level when the RMAC season starts. “You have to see good pitching and hitting so your guys are prepared to see what you will see in the RMAC,” Day said. Not only will the team have seen harder throwing pitchers, they will have played contests where the speed of the game is higher—things you cannot experience by playing below-average opponents.

Everything aside, the team has a big challenge in front of them. “I would put our preseason schedule up there with one of the toughest we have ever had,” Day said. With the heartbreak of last season in the back of their minds, the UNK baseball team has big aspirations for the upcoming season.  Through strategic scheduling and preparation by the coaching staff and hard work in the off-season by the players, they hope to have a season to be remembered, not forgotten.

Reporter Craig Hall

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