Kirkwood baseball team prepared for battle despite inclement weather
The weather isn’t cooperating, but Kirkwood Community College Baseball Coach John Lewis isn’t worried. “I remind the kids everyday that we’re all in the same boat,” Head Baseball Coach John Lewis said of the Midwest’s unfortunate weather situation. “I think we were ready for the games. It’s all about whoever comes prepared.”
His team split their first two games of the season last weekend (8-1 W and 5-2 L) in the Metro-Dome against Oakton Community College of Ill. The Eagles took the field for a double header at 4 a.m. “Once you’re in the Dome, you don’t know what time it is,” Lewis said.
The Eagles have been extensively preparing for the season for about seven weeks at the Michael J Gould Recreation Center and nearby practice facilities. Their daily schedules are filled with numerous weight workouts, defensive drills and batting practice, not to mention workouts for the pitchers and catchers. But, always practicing inside has taken a toll on the players.
“The weather really makes things hard for us. Kirkwood has the best JUCO indoor facilities, but it is nothing compared to practicing outside. Going to the Rec Center everyday gets old,” sophomore Travis Bennett said. “Our team has to do infield drills on the basketball court rather than an actual infield, we can’t play long toss to get our arms in shape, and hitting in a cage is nothing like hitting on the field. We make the most of it, but we will all be very happy when the snow finally melts.”
All of this is indoor practice has been in preparation to meet their goals. “Our main goal is to win the National Title,” Lewis said. “Within that, we want to be number one in our conference going into the tournament. We want to have all players on top of their game at the end of the season.”
With the Eagles narrowly missing the World Series last season, the players are hungry for another chance at the title. “My goal for the team this year is of course to go to the World Series. We were so close last year to making the trip. This year we have a very talented and deep pitching staff, as well as great position players that will give us a very good shot at making it to the World Series,” sophomore outfielder Travis Bennett said.
The Eagles return two powerhouse players this season. Bennett, a Cedar Rapids Jefferson prep and Northern Iowa signee for 2008-09, was named first team All-American in 2007 and has been named a pre-season All-American for 2008. “Being named pre-season All-American is nice, but it really means nothing when it comes down to it,” Bennett said. “It just means that there are higher expectations for me to fill, and that I need to work that much harder and show up that much more focused every game to help my team win.”
Bennett, who hit .412 last season, is joined on this year’s pre-season All-American list by fellow sophomore Darren Spicer, who is Western Illinois bound next season. Spicer batted .403 with 14 homeruns in 2007. “The rest of the team looks up to those two guys,” Lewis said. “They established good work habits last season. They set the tone for the other kids.”
Last season the Eagles were 38-19. This year, the competition will be just as tough. “Our Junior College teams in the state of Iowa are as good or better as any in the nation,” Lewis said. “[The conference] is wide open this year. We’ve got to be prepared.”