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National champs look to make the most of fall baseball

September 6th, 2014 Posted in Sports

Story and photo by Jared Dangerfield

PROVIDENCE — Fall is in the air and for many baseball enthusiasts that means the end of another season, but for the Utah State University club baseball players, their season is just beginning.

It’s fall, but Aggie baseball season is just beginning. Photo by Jared Dangerfield.

“I’m excited, I don’t think I have ever been so excited for a baseball season in my life, even if it is only fall,” said Kellen Hansen, head coach for the Aggies. “Looking around and seeing some of the talent and seeing some of the people who are excited to be here, we are stacked in a lot of positions. As a coaching staff, we are way excited to see how things go.”

Last spring the Aggies won the National Club Baseball Association Championship — for the second time in three years. But this season will be Hansen’s first year as the head coach of the USU squad. He was an assistant coach for the Aggies last season and has also coached for the Hyrum Hornets and the Preston Indians.

“I’ve always just grown up knowing that I was going to coach at some point,” he said. “I’m excited about it for sure.”

Hansen said the team’s goal to win another national championship is daunting, but realistic.

“There is a lot of expectation already around the team,” he said. “The expectations are through the roof, it’s a little intimidating.”

The Aggies have just three returning starters, but Hansen hopes the fall season provides the opportunity for players to rise up into the leadership positions that were lost with the departing athletes.

“We lost experience and leadership, but hope to make it up and see who steps up,” he said.

Gus Baskin, a returning player and president of the club, said his favorite part of the season last year was the brotherhood that the players were able to develop. He is hoping that with new editions to the team, the same type of bond will be able to happen once again.

“We already look really good,” Baskin said. “We look more like mid-season shape and we can only get better from here. I can definitely see the potential as long as we come together as a brotherhood again and as a team.”

Even though they have only had two practices with the new team, Hansen said they are taking advantage of the fall practices to work on overcoming some of the weaknesses of last season, such as situational hitting and base-running.

“Our practices our structured differently now,” he said. “We are doing things that we didn’t do in years past, we are trying to bring a cultural in, that guys are expected to do things on their own.”

Baskin said the fall season gives time for players to shake off the rust, have fun, and develop relationships with the team.

Eric Stranski, another returning player and vice president of the club, said he is hoping that during the fall season the players will be able to harness their talent and be more prepared for when the season officially starts in the spring.

“For fall, we hope to give players some time to develop, get better and hone in their skills,” he said. “We hope to be competitive and then come out and go for another national championship in the spring.”

The Aggies were scheduled to play Idaho State on Saturday, but ISU said they did not have a full team. So instead, the Aggies with their 33 player roster will be holding an inter-squad game at 11 a.m. at Zollinger park.

Stranski said he was looking forward to playing Idaho State, but hopes that the inter-squad game gives them more time to get used to playing together and time to come together as a team.

“We look to give players opportunities to show their talent and prove that they are ready to play,” he said. “And not only that, but to prove that we have depth on the team, that it’s not just the starters that will be able to get it done, but whoever we put in will be able to get it done.”

The game is open to the public and Stranski hopes that his team will get more support from the community than it has in years past.

“We would like to get the community more involved and let them know that we are here to play and compete,” Stranski said. “We have proven in the last two years that we’re a competitive baseball team. It should be something that parents take their kids out and watch a baseball game. I think that it’s got that friendly atmosphere, but the competitive edge as well.”


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