Jimmies baseball hopes tight bond leads to big things

Sep. 13—JAMESTOWN — The University of Jamestown baseball team heads into the 2023 fall season hoping its depth can lead them on a deep run.

"I think we have really good leaders and really good leaders enable chemistry to happen," Jimmies head coach Tom Hager said. "Tight-knit cohesive groups have a chance to handle adversity and have a chance to sustain success. I think our guys are a close-knit group and we expect things from them right away when the season begins."

This year the Jimmies return 10 out of their top 12 batting average leaders and four out of their top five ERA leaders.

"I think our biggest strength will be the depth that we have both on the mound and in the field and the chemistry within our team," Hager said. "We know we're going to be able to run the bases, we think we're going to be able to attack on the mound, but when you look at chemistry and depth, those are going to be the two things that make us really good."

One of the players they are returning is outfielder and pitcher Hayden Brown, who hit .364 with a team-leading 10 home runs and 34 RBIs. On the mound, the now-graduate student made 16 appearances working to a 1.63 ERA with six saves, 35 strikeouts and 13 walks for a strikeout per nine of 13.50. Brown said he wants to cut down on his 41 strikeouts at the plate this year. He also said he wants to go after hitters more on the mound.

This past season, Brown spent time playing for the Traverse City Pit Spitters in the Northwoods League.

"I think it'll help me a lot with just everyday preparation because I went through the grind of that season," Brown said. "But I think overall being around a high caliber of players and learning stuff from them and just watching the way they went about things will help me and will help other players because I can show them some things that maybe they (his Pit Spitters teammates) were working on that's similar to what they're (his Jimmies teammates) working on."

Hager said he is expecting big seasons from players like Brown, Trei Hough, Luke Zimmer, Cade Torgerson and Elias Harris. Hager said he is hoping for breakout seasons from pitchers Colsen Friedrichs, Ryan Wike and Varen Sabina and utility player Alex Alva.

"On offense, I believe one of our key strengths is going to be our speed," Hager said. "I think we're going to be able to pick it. I think we're going to be able to run the bases and hopefully, we'll be able to hit some home runs in between."

Zimmer said he wants the pitching staff as a whole to lower their walk rate from where it was at 140 total walks last year. During his freshman season, Zimmer had 8.32 strikeouts per nine innings, which was good for 13th on the team. Zimmer said he does not know how he will be used this year but is ready to be used in either the rotation or the bullpen.

Last year, the Jimmies went 0-2 in the GPAC tournament, losing the two games each by one run.

"It still stings. It's in the back of every returner's mind," Zimmer said. "It's kind of a learning moment, though. We have to build off of what we accomplished last year and use what we learned in the loss last year to finish in a stronger way this year."

Heading into this season, the Jimmies have three catchers on the varsity roster, including Jordan Singleton. Singleton played in 45 games last year, making 12 appearances behind the dish.

"(My role will be) doing whatever I can to help the team out, whether it's hitting the go-ahead home run or going and getting foul balls when I'm not playing," Singleton said.

Singleton said he is not expecting to be the team's starting catcher on opening day but he is working to beat Madison out for the job.

The Jimmies open the season at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 14, when they welcome Dickinson State University for a doubleheader.

"I'm so excited," Zimmer said. "I missed Jimmie baseball. The team chemistry that we have this year is frankly remarkable, how quickly we've bonded as a team. I'm really, really excited to get on the field with these guys."

Hager said he has brought former infielder Xander Orejudos has been added to his staff as an assistant coach.

This year, the Jimmies play six of their eight fall games at home.

"Our guys love playing at Jack Brown Stadium," Hager said. "We didn't get to play many last year and so anytime you get to play on this field in front of this crowd, it's a great thing. So, we're super excited about it."