The 2016 North Central College Cardinals baseball team started off strong, despite some “outside expectations” going into the season.
The Cardinals started off 11-0, including a 22-8 season opener domination over Lawrence University, but have dropped three of their last six games. They don’t see this setback as something that will slow the team down though.
“I wouldn’t say we lost momentum,” said Jeremy Quade (’15). “We made a lot of errors defensively in those games, but the momentum isn’t gone.”
The Cardinals did not make it into the NCAA DIII top 25 preseason rankings, but something felt right to them in the offseason. “Outside expectations were not very high, but we knew we had something special going in,” said Joe Barsanti (’17). Now, North Central is ranked No. 13 in the nation, according to the NCAA DIII Top 30 poll.
The team lost 14 seniors from last season, which may have contributed to the low expectations. “Last year we graduated a lot of guys, so we knew we would have to play hard,” said Quade.
They needed to play hard, and they did just that with an 11-0 start, which built up a lot of confidence.
“Confidence is key in baseball and getting off on this start has been huge,” said Barsanti. “Now that people see us for who we are they are gunning for us.”
23 of the 52 players are freshman, and Barsanti says that they have heavily contributed to the team’s success. “(The freshman) are great teammates and some of the better ball players I’ve seen,” said Barsanti.
As in any sport, adversity is bound to happen, which is when the experience of upperclassmen really cannot be replaced. “They’ll respond better with the help of the experience of the older guys,” said Barsanti.
As for the rest of the season, the team is looking to continue reaching their full potential. “I don’t like to set expectations; I like to do the best I can,” said Barsanti. “We like to let our play do the talking.”
It’s obvious that the team has been living by that motto this spring. The CCIW tournament begins May 12, which means the team has a month to get even better in preparation for a long postseason run.
This team’s full potential could be very dangerous for other teams.
“This is one of the more unique teams I’ve been on,” said Barsanti. “The sky is the limit; the only thing in the way is ourselves.”