By WILLIAM GLASS
The club baseball team of Kennesaw State University is revamped and ready to finish what it started in 2012 — win the Division II National Club Baseball Association championship.
Coming to within just one game of the championship in 2012, the team has had an entire year to dwell on the loss. Kennesaw lost by a score of 9-7 in the semi-final game to
the eventual champion, Hofstra University.
“Unfortunately it ended with us falling a game short of going to the national championship,” said John Brinson, president of KSU club baseball. “Not where we wanted to be.”
Overall KSU posted a 3-2 record in the World Series with wins over the University of Maryland, champions-at-the-time Penn State, and Hofstra before bowing out.
Several positions were vacated in the offseason, coaching as well as playing.
“The main position (left unfilled) was our head coaching position,” said Brinson, “which was filled by Daniel Jackson.”
Jackson, whose player eligibility expired after last year, both caught and played designated hitter for the team in 2012.
“We had a couple other coaching vacancies which were filled by Harrison Hardwick, who decided to return, and Carl Brown, who also decided to return,” said Brinson.
Hardwick, who was the team’s head coach in 2012, had planned to leave the coaching staff after last season.
“I had other priorities I had to take care of first, which is why I stepped down from the head coaching position,” Hardwick said. “Fortunately after honoring my commitments, I’m still able to contribute to the team as an assistant coach.”
Carl Brown, who was an assistant coach in 2012, made his decision to return once Hardwick and Jackson let their intentions be known.
The team also lost seniors Hector Rojas, Daniel Jackson, and Will Glass to graduation and eligibility expirations, as well as sophomore Kellen Grachek who transferred. Rojas’ spot in left field is filled by junior Gabriel Hidalgo along with a myriad of freshman talent. Grachek’s spot at third base is now occupied by his younger brother, Neil Grachek, and the catching spot vacated by Jackson and Glass is being held down by junior Caleb Moore.
Simply replacing a few pieces wasn’t good enough for the team this offseason, which added a vast number of talented pitchers to the roster.
“We’re definitely stronger in pitching; we’ve got probably 16 guys this season that we can all count on,” Brinson said.
The team has also improved its practice capabilities from last season by adding a batting cage and a portable pitching mound to the Owl’s Nest, the KSU club sports headquarters.
And while the National Club Baseball Association World Series isn’t until May, Kennesaw State has already been putting itself to the test. The team was the only Division II program
invited to compete in a Division I tournament in November of 2012, and they proved they can play with the best.
After allowing only two runs in three wins against, UNC Wilmington, Appalachian State and Clemson, Kennesaw lost 13-7 against UNC Charlotte in the championship game.
“We ended up losing, but it was a pretty good showing for a DII team in a DI tournament,” Brinson said.
So how much confidence do the players have in this year’s team?
“I can speak on behalf of the seniors last year and the current seniors, that if we don’t win the World Series this year, it’s an embarrassment,” said senior pitcher Josh Peterson. “You will see Kennesaw State’s name on that trophy.”