Less than a year ago, Wheaton’s baseball team was wrapping up its season with a bit of a disappointing chip on its shoulder. Before the season started, the team was picked to finish fourth in the CCIW. Yet the Thunder unfortunately finished the season with a 10-11 record, missing out on the fourth and final CCIW playoff spot by one game.
This year, the goal is the same, but the CCIW coaches’ expectation has been lowered. For the 2017 season, the team was recently picked to finish fifth in the league, behind teams like North Central, Illinois Wesleyan, Augustana and Carthage.
The team returns many of its impact players from 2016 including CCIW Newcomer of the Year, sophomore centerfielder Nick Mailman, and Second Team All-CCIW honorees, senior outfielder Jacob Zeller and senior pitcher Nick Johnson. Recent CCIW Pitcher of the Week, senior Daniel Bayer, will also be relied upon on the mound.
In terms of additions, the team has bolstered its lineup with nine freshmen. However, possibly the most crucial and impactful offseason addition is the regaining of outfielder Johnny Peltz. The senior was a member of the team in 2014 and 2015, but did not play last year due to his desire to focus on football. In 2015, Peltz’ excellence at the plate was on full display with a .331 batting average and a First Team All-CCIW selection.
“I expect us to be good and have a successful year,” said senior pitcher John Schmitz when asked about his expectations for the season. “Our pitching has been great, and even though our hitting has been struggling as of this past weekend I know we are going to pick it up for conference and be the team to beat.”
The team is already off to a hot start with a 9-4 record and the Thunder’s first appearance on the d3baseball.com honorable mention list of best teams in the nation since 2012. Whether the team will continue this momentum into the CCIW season has yet to be seen, but Thunder baseball fans are certainly hoping so.