The calendar suggests that it will soon be time for the Maple Leaf baseball and softball teams to take the field. While patches of bare grass were visible on both teams’ home fields earlier this week, Mother Nature appears to disagree.The softball team will have more chances than ever to be postponed – the Crossroads League changed its schedule so that each team plays its opponents twice at home and twice on the road, resulting in a 36-game slate that is twice as long as that of previous seasons.
The baseball season hasn’t been lengthened, the longer schedule having been instituted in 2012; however, conference policy prohibits rescheduling one series after the next has begun, so only four teams over that two-year span have completed the full schedule.
Whatever the number of games that are played, the six-week conference season will test the depth of every team. This will be especially true of the Maple Leafs, who list only 19 baseball players and 13 softball players on their roster.
The baseball team is scheduled to play six games a week, which is a heavier schedule than many professional team face in March and April; they will do so with a staff of only ten pitchers, six of whom play other positions and all of whom are right-handed.
Relative youth is a recurring theme in the coaches’ boxes: softball head coach Kristen Kolter enters her third collegiate season and first at Goshen, while baseball coach Alex Childers begins his second season on the GC bench.
Both coaches have northeast-Indiana ties from their high-school days; Childers is an alumnus of New Haven High School while Kolter attended Adams Central High School in Decatur.
On the field, youth will be self-evident as well.
A majority of the baseball roster is first-year students, joined by four sophomores, two juniors and three seniors – and only one senior, infielder Josh Schlabach, has played all four years at Goshen.
Last year’s team leaders in batting average, runs batted in and stolen bases are returning; the team was paced in all three categories by Arick Armington, a senior. But the three most-used pitchers from last year’s 4-40 club were lost to graduation or transfer, and a majority of the innings thrown thus far this season have come from first-years.
Despite the return of first team all-conference pick Melanie Meyer, a junior who was Goshen’s first all-league selection in a decade, the 7-23 softball team saw significant losses to graduation as well.
Between Ame Blankenship and Maria Koshmider, 2013 graduates, more than two-thirds of Goshen’s innings pitched have exhausted their eligibility; by batting average, six of last year’s seven leading hitters have left the program.
Neither team was able to pull out a win during southern sojourns over midterm break; baseball was swept in nine games in Kentucky and Tennessee, while softball went 0-8 in Florida.
Both teams are scheduled to open their home seasons this weekend; the men will serve as the home team for a series in South Bend, taking on Robert Morris University at 6 p.m. Friday and in a doubleheader at 2 p.m. Saturday, while the women welcome Siena Heights to the GC Softball Complex for a doubleheader at 1 p.m. Saturday.