2017 Season Outlook
Continued success has been the theme for the baseball program in the past few years and will be their mantra again this year. Last season the Trolls finished with a 37-24-1 record and once again set a new mark for regular and overall wins in a season, surpassing the marks set the previous years. With an 18-11-1 conference record they also finished in the top five in CCAC play for the fourth consecutive year. The 2016 season culminated with a third trip in a row to the NCCAA National Championship in Mason, Ohio and the fourth national tournament berth in as many seasons that began with the team’s 2013 first-ever NAIA national tournament appearance. The 2017 Trolls have high hopes for this season as they have returned and brought in solid talent.
The 2017 roster has grown significantly from the previous year with 14 new faces joining the club. Combined with 16 returners, the team has a multitude of depth at each position. The newcomers provide a great mixture of experienced transfers who will make an impact right away and solid young talent ready to contribute. Despite the number of additions, the team has continued its strong camaraderie that seventh-year head coach Justin Huisman feels will significantly add to the team’s success.
“Last year was a fantastic year on and off the field for us,” said Huisman. “We struggled with depth though, so we wanted to increase our options at each position this year. The coaching staff worked hard in the recruiting process to make sure the unity we possessed would not be hurt in the process. It is very exciting to see how quickly these guys have come together for a common cause. There is a hunger from top to bottom to have a great season in 2017.”
“Our leadership has been outstanding, everyone knows and accepts his role for the club, and the work ethic is there,” comments Huisman about his roster. “This team has the most talent we have ever had at Trinity, but we know talent only takes you so far. They are ready to prove it on the field and it is going to be exciting to watch them play.”
The strength of the 2017 team could lie in their offense yet again. Under Assistant Coach Adam Enright’s hitting instruction, the club set new records last season in home runs, RBI’s, and walks. They tied for the conference lead with a .307 batting average. Coach Huisman believes the potential to put up big numbers this season is almost a certainty.
“We have returned three of the conferences biggest producers from last year’s club and brought in a few transfers who are highly proven hitters at their previous institutions,” said Huisman. “In addition our freshmen can hold their own. This team will be able to beat you in many ways including power, small ball, and base running.”
While the offensive has proven talent, Huisman is also confident in his pitching staff. They are deeper in that area and, with solid returners and talented newcomers, will have the potential to frustrate many opposing hitters.
The pitching staff consists of 13 players who can provide innings on the mound. Six of those players are experienced seniors. Returner Tanner Reklaitis (Sheboygan, Wisconsin) is coming off the best season in Trinity history. In 92 innings pitched, he set school records with a 2.15 ERA, 92 strikeouts and 10 wins. He also earned CCAC All-Conference honors and was named NCCAA Second-Team All-American. Zack Jones (Norridge, Illinois) had a break-out year as the Trolls’ closer, closing the door 10 times with a 1.88 ERA. That saves mark was a school record for the staff. Jones earned All-Conference Second-Team honors as a reliever. Stefano Belmonte (Schererville, Indiana) has already thrown some quality innings for the Trolls in the fall and looks to be a nice late inning compliment to Jones. Blake Timmer (Hudsonville, Michigan) will contribute again in a short relief role. Ricky Rogers (Palos Hills, Illinois) threw 42 innings last season with six starts and will be a reliable lefty arm out of the pen this spring. Tyler Fortier (Oak Lawn, Illinois) is coming back from an arm injury, but is hopeful to be a major contributor out of the pen as well.
A few other returners and transfer players will also bring experience to the pitching rotation. Junior Clay DeHaan (Elgin, Illinois) threw 30 innings last season with four starts and looks to be solid starter option for the Trolls this spring. Bryan Vanderlee (St. John, Indiana) came in as a freshman last year and made an impact right away, earning three wins in his eight starts over 52 innings, He is expected to be a major contributor to the staff again. Juniors Tyler LaFlamme (Beech Grove, Indiana) and Kyle Doney (Plano, Illinois) are both former Waubonsee Community College pitchers expected to come in to help lead the staff in experience and production. Another junior transfer, Richard Yelnick (New Lenox, Illinois) comes to Trinity from Parkland College where he was a solid reliever. He could see significant action out of the pen and as a starter.
A couple of freshmen will test their skill at the collegiate level. Josh York (Zeeland, Michigan) and Sam Herzog (Hudsonville, Michigan) could potentially contribute right away. In addition Sam could see time in the outfield as well.
The pitching staff will have a solid group of catchers to work with. Jones will look to build off of yet another year of All-Conference and NCCAA All-American honors with his defensive and offensive play. A year ago he earned CCAC Gold Glove honors, posted a .382 batting average, and set school season records with 81 hits and 57 RBIs. Dan Budde (Wilmington, Illinois) saw significant time at second base last season, but could be called upon to catch more innings this season. Incoming freshman John Roberts (Oak Lawn, Illinois) had a great fall season and will be ready if called upon. Returning senior Chris Riemersma (Zeeland, Michigan) will see most of his time in the outfield and first base, but could end up behind the dish as well.
The infield will be a nice combination of experience veterans and young talent. Junior Kyle VanKalker (Lansing, Illinois), a two-year starter at short stop, provides excellent leadership for the team up the middle. In addition he is an important part of the batting order with a .332 batting average last season and 48 runs. Senior Alec Barnhart (Hometown, Illinois) joined the Trolls last season from Saint Xavier University, but did not see action until this fall where he wasted no time being a threat at the plate. He will field second base. Belmonte brings three years of experience to the hot corner and looks to make a huge impact in the meat of the lineup. Luke Weston (Elgin, Illinois) had a great freshman season for the Trolls last season at third base, hitting six home runs and driving in 29. His sophomore campaign will see him spending more time at first base and the outfield, but will continue to be a solid stick. Budde, along with his catching duties, looks to contribute around the diamond again.
Joining those returners in the infield are freshmen Austin Wood (Bartonville, Illinois), Alex Gerhardt (Appleton, Wisconsin), Frank Romano (Elmhurst, Illinois), and Liam Blake (Oak Lawn, Illinois) who are ready to step in whenever called upon.
The outfield returns veterans who provide stability and talent on the field as well as offensive production. All-Conference senior Blake Kerzich (Plainfield, Illinois) has been the starting center fielder for the past two seasons. A year ago he hit .365 and led the team in runs and sacrifice hits. Junior Tyler Sroczynski (Dyer, Indiana), a left fielder and designated hitter, also earned All-Conference marks leading off for the Trolls in 2016. He led the team a .404 batting average and had 11 doubles, four triples, and three home runs. Senior Lance Lammers (Centennial, Colorado) had 102 at-bats last spring and looks to see some time in the outfield, where he started in left or right field last season.
Rounding out the returning outfielders are Chris Riemersma who had 148 at-bats last season and will see time at first base and DH and sophomore TJ Spyrnal (Oak Lawn, Illinois). Teno Geritano (Villa Park, Illinois), Morgan Nowitzki (Darien, Illinois), Brandon Riemersma (Zeeland, Michigan), and Herzog come to the Trolls ready to make an impact right away in the outfield and on the base paths.
The Trolls have a total of 53 games on their schedule and 27 of those are conference contests. Four of those contests were completed this fall and the team enters the spring with a 2-2 record. They open their spring schedule on February 17 at home at the Trinity Athletics Complex for a weekend of double-headers against Spring Arbor University. The following week the Trolls play host to Goshen College and then head to St. Louis to play Harris Stowe State University in a four-game set. For spring break in early-March the team will travel down to the Florida RussMatt Invitational again for eight contests against Cornerstone University, Mt. Marty College, Aquinas College, and Concordia University (MI). The team will host Bethel College in mid-March before heading into conference play.
In the CCAC schedule, which starts on March 25 and continues through the end of April, the Trolls will meet every team in the South Division of the conference in a three-game series and play the North Division teams in a double-header. Trinity will have to compete with top runners Judson University, Olivet Nazarene University, Saint Xavier University, Robert Morris University-Illinois, and the University of St. Francis for a top CCAC standing and for qualification to the conference tournament that starts on May 5.