WATERTOWN, Wis. -- The 34-game season for the Sabercats gets started tomorrow, as the team will have a chance to break out of the batting cage and onto an actual diamond for the first time all winter.
2017: What Could Have Been
2017 was a grind for the Sabercats, who lost by 4 runs or fewer 18 different times. Last year's team was skilled and experienced, finishing just 3 wins shy of the program record for wins in a season.
Last season also saw a miraculous comeback against Minnesota-Morris (Apr. 1). The Sabercats were down 2-11 in their final at-bat, but concocted a 10-run rally to take an unbelievable 12-11 win over the Cougars. April fools indeed.
Despite the disappointment of so many narrow losses, the 2017 squad pulled together to win 5 of their last 6 games, finishing with a 13-0 shutout of Finlandia on Parents' Day to end the season.
The Sabercats enter the 2018 season with shoes to fill, as 9 players (6 seniors/starters) will not be returning for this year. Another challenge the Sabercats will face is only having 8 home games (4 doubleheaders) on the season.
Items to note are as follows:
- First games............. March 16 at Lincoln Christian
- Home games........... 8 (4 doubleheaders)
- NCCAA games......... 15
- First home game..... 4/13 vs Martin Luther
- Last home game..... 4/23 vs North Central
- Home field.............. Washington Park
Despite losing 9 players and 6 starters, the Sabercats still have a good number of returning players to the lineup. Elijah May returns this year as a team captain, and he has been a reliable option behind the plate for 3 seasons already. The 2016 AD3I 1st Team All-Independent selection will look to bring a consistent bat to the order as well. Jordan Garrison returns to the mound for his fourth season, and will serve as team captain as well. The southpaw earned AD3I 1st Team honors in 2016 and 2nd Team honors in 2017. Garrison has faced some of the Sabercats' top opponents and holds a 6-13 career record and a 4.63 ERA.
Micah Shepard is the final 4-year player to wear Maranatha colors, and he will be a team captain as well. Shepard was named to the AD3I 2nd Team last year and has given up just 7 earned runs in his last 24 innings as a relief pitcher. Shepard also holds a career batting average of .292. A final key contributor will be Clint Matheis, who has proven to be a tough pitcher to hit. Matheis has gone up against some of the powerhouse programs from the Midwest, and while he has still to record his first career win, he has proven himself to be one of the Sabercats' more dangerous pitchers.
Coach Gary Garrison has also given the nod to newcomers Ryan Hempel and Cody Kuhl as being solid first-year contributors for the Sabercats.
Thoughts from Coach Garrison
Coach Garrison is eyeing the development of a young team as he approaches the 2018 season. "[We want to] be as competitive as we can be with a very young team," Garrison said, stressing the importance of developing young players in game situations. "I am very much looking forward to working with this group. This promises to be a huge growth year for some while relying on a good core of veteran players. The experience gained this season coupled with 3 or 4 committed players for next season promises to solidify the next few years."
The season starts tomorrow with a 1 p.m. doubleheader at Lincoln Christian University. The Sabercats hold an all-time record of 23-15 against the Red Lions.
Catch details of that game at mbusabercats.com/composite.