As late February rolls around again, that means it is time for one thing: Pilots baseball. Even though the last two years under coach Geoff Loomis haven’t gone the way the Pilots had hoped, the upcoming season is a clean slate.
The Pilots baseball team did not have the results it was looking for in the 2017 campaign, finishing with an overall record of 10-41-1, including a 5-22 effort in West Coast Conference play.
This is Loomis’s third year as coach, and after two disappointing seasons in a row, 2018 is an important one for the program. With last season in the rearview mirror, the Pilots look to change things going into the 2018 season.
The first goal Loomis set for the season was to stay healthy before the team’s season opener on Feb. 16 at UCLA. So far, the Pilots do not have any major injuries going into the beginning of the year.
Besides staying healthy, Loomis’ top priority is strengthening defense.
“We know at looking at real successful programs, they play great team defense,” Loomis said. “That is one of the things on my radar as a number one priority because it allows our pitching staff to be more comfortable.”
This will be monumental moving forward. Making the right plays on defense will help the pitching staff get out of innings more quickly and will hopefully lead to a team ERA that is better than the 6.01 posted last season by the Pilots, ranking second from the bottom in the WCC in that category.
One man that will help to bring that team ERA down is returning senior Jordan Horak. Along with returning , Horak will anchor this year’s starting rotation. Appearing in 23 games last season, the team will lean on Horak heavily again this year, and he is excited for the challenge.
“Our goals are to compete with every team that we face and control what we can,” Horak said. We have to keep it going. We have had an amazing start to the season so far. We have something special here that I haven’t seen in the last four years”
The Pilots have a clean slate in front of them to make of it what they want, and new faces on The Bluff may help them achieve a better result than last season. Incoming freshman Chad Stevens will most likely start at shortstop as he has impressed the coaches so far. The other freshman that will be looking to make an immediate impact is Portland native and freshman Eli Morse. He will come in and most likely compete for the Sunday starter role with the pitching staff.
Playing more games at Etzel Field should help out the Pilots this season. Last season, the team only played 20 of their 52 games at home. This year, they are scheduled to play 27 out of the 50 games at home.
“I think it should make a difference,” junior Matt Kelly said. “There is always that mindset that we are more comfortable at home, plus California teams come up here and it's raining and they are not used to that and we are.”
The Pilots have a full season of baseball ahead and look to put away the disappointment of the 2017 year and dive into the 2018 campaign. The Pilots open up their season against a top 15 team in the country UCLA on February 16th before returning home for the home opener against University of Oregon on February 21st.