2018 Season Outlook

The 2017-18 baseball team is prepped for a positive season and ready to be a strong contender in the conference. The Trolls have high hopes as they return a number of talented players and have added a class of recruits that will make a difference. After missing out on post-season play a year ago, the team is determined to return to that extended season action. They are confident that they can challenge for a top conference finish and be in the mix for a national tournament bid.  

A year ago the team finished at 22-27 overall and 10-17 in the conference. From that squad they return 20 players of which many are proven veterans. In addition, the team has added 13 new players who are a talented group of transfers and incoming freshman. Overall the roster of players is extremely well-rounded and solid offensively and defensively. In addition with a squad of 33 athletes, the team has depth that will challenge all the players and also give the young players the opportunity to develop. 

“We have a very balanced team and will be effective both on the field and at bat,” said eighth year head coach Justin Huisman. “We have a strong core of veterans who will lead the way, but also have added players who will step in and make an immediate impact. In addition, with the numbers we have, our depth will be an asset.”

Defensively the Trolls return veterans or experienced transfers in almost every position and will be strong across the board. In addition, the younger talent brings depth and will challenge for playing time.  The pitching staff, though relatively young, has added depth which will make them stronger. They have at least five returning starters and will add a couple of newcomers to that mix. They also have a pool of players that will be able to step in to finish games as needed.

“I feel good about the talent we have on the field,” said Huisman. “Our defense should be better this year as we experienced players.  We also have some of the younger talent from last year who have developed and are ready to step in.”

“Overall our pitching staff has more depth,” commented Huisman. “We will need to stay healthy, but I believe that with our staff we should be able to pitch well enough to be in the top of the conference standings. Some of our talent is still young, but we have options.”

In addition to a heightened defensive, the Trolls also will not be lacking at the plate. While they lost some of the power from last season, in which school team records in doubles, home runs, and slugging percentage were set, they will be able to get on base in a number of different ways this season. The team returns five of their top 10 hitters and they will complement those returners with new players who have the ability to hit the ball.

“We will be strong at the plate and should be able to produce hits,” said Huisman. “We will not rely as much on our power as we did last season, but we will be able to hurt our opponents in a variety of ways. Once on the base path we will be able to move runners around and score runs.”

The infield for the Trolls will include a number of veteran players. Senior Kyle Van Kalker (Dyer, Indiana) is a staple in the short stop position where he has started for the past three seasons. Last year he led the team with 129 assists while posting a .958 fielding percentage. He also helped out at the plate with a .297 batting average, while scoring 26 runs and posting 23 RBI. Junior Luke Weston (East Dundee, Illinois) has been a starter for the past two seasons, playing third in his rookie season and first base last year. He will occupy first again this season. He also can provide offensive production as he had a .280 batting average a year ago. Austin Wood (Bartonville, Illinois), a sophomore, gained some experience at second base or left field last year. He will factor into the starting line-up at second base this season. With a .284 batting average from a year ago he can also contribute in the batting order. Junior Dan Budde (Wilmington, Illinois) returns to the infield where he started in 26 games last season. He will be behind the plate as the catcher or can also play second base.  If not on the field, he may be called on in the line-up as the designated hitter.

Other returners who can fill infield positions are sophomore Frank Romano (Elmhurst, Illinois), sophomore Alex Gerhardt (Appleton, Wisconsin), who will also pinch run, and sophomore Liam Blake (Oak Lawn, Illinois), a first baseman, and sophomore John Roberts (Oak Lawn, Illinois), who started in nine games at catcher a year ago.

Also playing infield positions will be a few incoming junior transfer players who bring experience to the field and will also be crucial to the batting line-up. Alex Nisle (Schererville, Indiana), a transfer from St. Joseph’s College, can play first or third base and contribute in the batting order.  If not in the infield he can fill an outfield position as well.  Kyle Kolb (Roanoke, Illinois) is a transfer who played two seasons at Waubonsee Community College, where he earned second-team all-conference honors. He will find a home at third base and be an important part of the batting order.  Jake Tholl (Tinley Park, Illinois) comes to Trinity with two years of experience, having played one season each at the College of DuPage and Prairie State College. He will step in as a starting catcher and can also be the designated hitter with his offensive ability. In addition junior Grant Lyons (Colorado Springs, Colorado) returns to the team after playing for the Trolls in the 2015 season.  

The Trolls also have experience returning to the outfield.  Leading that group of players is senior Tyler Sroczynski (Dyer, Indiana), a starter in right field.  He is the team’s leading returning batter with a .356 batting average last year which included 67 hits. He also is critical on the base path as he led the team and the conference with a school record 31 stolen bases and his way to 55 runs scored. A year ago Sroczynski earned CCAC All-Conference Second-Team honors as well as NCCAA All-Region and All-American Third Team honors. Another outfield starting position will be filled by junior transfer Chris Baker (South Holland, Illinois). He brings experience with a seasons played at South Suburban College and the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Providing depth to the outfield and filling the other starting position are a number of returners.  That group includes junior TJ Spyrnal (Oak Lawn, Illinois), who started in seven games in left field a year ago, and sophomores Brandon Riemersma (Zeeland, Michigan), Teno Geritano (White House, Tennessee),  Morgan Nowitzki (Darien, Illinois), Sam Herzog (Hudsonville, Michigan), who was on the pitching staff last year.  Riemersma, Geritano, and Nowitzki can also fill in as pinch runners.

The pitching staff has a good blend of returning and new players. The team has five starting pitchers from a year ago. Senior Richard Yelnick (New Lenox, Illinois) earned CCAC All-Conference Second Team and NCCAA All-Region honors last year. He posted the team’s lowest ERA at 3.22 in 58.2 innings pitched with eight starts. He also had 51 strike-outs and recorded a 5-2 win-loss record.  Senior Clay DeHaan (Elgin, Illinois) pitched 41.2 innings with seven starts a year ago and posted a 4.10 ERA. Junior Bryan Vanderlee (St. John, Indiana) started in a total of nine games and pitched the second most innings with 55.1. He finished the 2017 season with a 4.39 ERA and a 5-4 record.  Senior Tyler LaFlamme (Beech Grove, Indiana) was an important part of the pitching staff last year in his first season with the Trolls. He had nine starts and logged 51.2 innings. Overall he recorded a 6.45 ERA, a 3-2 record, and had two saves.  Also in his first season at Trinity in 2017, senior Kyle Doney (Plano, Illinois) started in six games and made 12 appearances overall. In 26.2 innings pitched he recorded 25 strike-outs.

Adding depth to the pitching bullpen and making an impact will be a few newcomers. Freshman Dan Vos (Orland Park, Illinois), who earned all-state honors at Chicago Christian High School, will be a part of the starting rotation. Senior Rory Gard (Schererville, Indiana) brings experience as he played for three seasons at St. Joseph’s College. Junior Patrick Hogan (South Holland, Illinois) also has some experience as he played last year at South Suburban College.  Freshman John VanderWall (Orland Park, Illinois), also from Chicago Christian High School, will also find time on the mound as a starter or reliever.

The pitching staff will also be able to call on a number of younger pitchers who will step in to contribute as well as develop their skill. One returner is sophomore Josh York (Zeeland, Michigan), who pitched 6.1 innings in relief a year ago. The incoming freshmen include Jared Smaga (Warrenville, Illinois), William Curtis (Lockport, Illinois), Zach Huisman (St. John, Indiana), and Ramon Flores (Burbank, Illinois).

The Trolls have a total of 53 games on their schedule. Four of those contests were played in the fall and the team enters the spring season with a 4-0 record. The team is set to open their spring schedule in late February with home contests against Goshen College. They travel to Kentucky and Missouri to get more games in before heading to Florida during spring break for eight games in the RussMatt Invitational. The only other non-conference game on the schedule is a contest at Northern Illinois University, a NCAA Division I program, on April 11.

The conference schedule consists of 30 games in which the Trolls will meet every team in the conference three times. The three-game series will be played in a double-header and a single contest. Trinity begins their CCAC schedule on March 13 in a home double-header with Olivet Nazarene University. They will have to compete with the top favorites of Robert Morris University-Illinois, Judson University, Olivet Nazarene University, Saint Xavier University, and the University of St. Francis to take a place at the top of the standings and to qualify for the conference tournament that begins on May 4.