Louis Ascencio
Staff Writer

Spring is just around the corner, which means baseball season is upon us. The Poets baseball team opened up their 2022 season on Feb. 4, after having their 2021 season canceled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. They hosted Whitworth University at Hugh B. Mendez Stadium, but came up short with the final score being 12 – 5. Since then, the Poets record is 1 – 13 through the regular season. 

The Poets rank second to last at the bottom of a strong conference. Within their conference, the Poets record is 1 – 5. This conference includes such schools as La Verne, Redlands, Pomona-Pitzer and Cal Lutheran.

COVID-19 has had an immense impact on the baseball team. Even when things seem back to normal, the situation still remains a bit uneasy. With the addition of first- and second-years who are making their collegiate debuts, it is a struggle for the Poets.  However, as the season continues, there’s hope for improvement. 

Head Coach of the Baseball team, Mike Rizzo, talked about how this season has been impacted by COVID-19, as well as their unfortunate record so far in this part of the season. Rizzo described the cancellation of the 2020 – ’21 season as “catastrophic,” as the remaining 20 games from the previous season were also called off. Between these two seasons, the team has lost 16 athletes.

Rizzo put it in perspective. He mentioned that fourth-year Dane Goodman has only played 66 games as a Poet. The next closest player, fourth-year River Danner, played 40 games.

Additionally,  COVID-19 has affected this team’s ability to bond. Attending online classes and being away from campus during the time of the pandemic affected the team’s opportunities to build a strong connection. Having this specific connection is pivotal for a team’s success. Rizzo looks forward to improving this team on and off the field. 

Rizzo said, “You can practice all you want, but the number one thing we have to do as a collective group is to learn how to compete again.  There is no way to duplicate that in practice — it only comes with playing games.” He added, “We have 75 percent of our season remaining, so there is time to make the improvements and adjustments needed to win ball games.  Our kids are committed to working their tails off to turn this thing around.”

The season has not panned out the way that Coach Rizzo and his baseball players would have hoped, but multiple games have been close and competitive. The Poets series versus Occidental was competitive, the two Puget Sound games happened to be close also. However, Rizzo wants this team to overcome these obstacles and finish games strong going forward. Rizzo explained what he wants out of his team for the remainder of the season: “We are going to have to limit the number of walks we give up and play sound defense.”

Second-year Jaxson Hutcherson, who is a left-handed pitcher for the Poets, talked about the season and what it’ll look like going forward. “Despite us having a rough start, I know this team is fully capable of turning our season around. Once again, having all three sides of the ball [offense, defense, and pitching] is going to be crucial for us, especially in a conference with many tough opponents.” 

Although this is not what the team envisioned before the season opener, it’s about having a positive outlook on what changes can be made and bringing about a new culture in the locker room. Hutcherson added, “Our mistakes are bound to appear bigger than those that some other teams make; however, staying positive when things start to go against us is something I believe our team needs to work on. I have faith in my guys to make our season turn around for the better, though.”

Regardless of starting off the season with a rocky start, there is still a lot to look forward to for fans of our team and the Poets baseball team themselves. The rest of the Poets season will consist of 26 games, with their final regular season game taking place on May 7 at Redlands.

Featured Image: Courtesy of wcpoets.com

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