Wildcat baseball looks to young talent for a resurgence in 2023

Nate Bope, Staff Writer

The Wayne State College baseball team is only a couple of weeks away from the first pitch of the 2023 season. Entering this season, the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference preseason coaches poll has voted the Wildcats to finish 10th in the conference this year. 

Last year, the Wildcats were 19-26 overall with a 13-18 record in NSIC play, finishing ninth in the conference and just missing out on the NSIC Conference Tournament. The team is only returning six players who saw action in the batter’s box last season.  

However, with all the senior talent leaving this team, a lot of young talent is ready to fill the roles left behind. Near a baker’s dozen new faces are joining the roster this season.  

Senior outfielder Colin Lynam is one of the leaders on this team and one of the players to watch this year. He finished with a .333 batting average including four homeruns and 24 runs batted in last season, starting in every single one of the team’s games.  

Other faces returning to the Wildcats this season are junior outfielder Cade Lynam, a couple of sophomore infielders in Chase Douglas and Nick Barnett and junior catcher Kyler Essink.  

“The names on the lineup card are a big unknown this year,” Head Coach Alex Koch said. “Any given day, we may have five freshmen in our lineup. We are going to have a lot of different lineups and see which guys are producing in which spots.”  

Last season, the Wildcats broke the school record for fielding percentage in a single season at .972 percent and only committing 43 errors all season, the second-best mark in the NSIC. 

“I have a lot of faith in this team defensively,” Koch said. “Seeing what we are doing out on the field, we are very athletic which gives me a lot of faith.” 

While there is much uncertainty and inexperience on the fielding and batting side of the game, the Wildcats are very deep in their pitching staff. The numbers were not the greatest for the Wildcats last season. The team posted a combined 6.34 ERA while having one of the lower strikeout rates in the NSIC last year. Yet a lot of great talent returns to WSC.  

“We expect to be much better on the mound this year,” Koch said. “A lot of young experience returns, and a lot of guys come off injuries are returning for us.” 

The Wildcats are led by senior starting pitcher Ryan Obrecht, who is looking to resurge this year. He posted a 0-5 record and 8.84 ERA in his ten appearances last season.  

“I’m feeling a lot better about my game,” Obrecht said. “I’m in a lot better shape and had a good summer playing in a league in Washington. I gained a lot of experience and am trying to carry that over into spring ball.” 

Along with their senior leader, the pitching rotation is returning some of their top starters from the year prior. Junior right-hander Brody Sintek and sophomore right-hander Jackson Shelbourne should slot in nicely to the rotation. Sophomore southpaw Corbin Kirk is a transfer coming in from Western Nebraska Community College, where he had a record of 5-5 with a 4.14 ERA and 78 strikeouts.  

WSC will also have Nathan Anderson back in the rotation as he is coming off Tommy John surgery. Sophomore right-hander Kolt Davis and junior right-hander Logan Walters are also coming off Tommy John surgeries.  

The bullpen sees some good production return as well, with sophomore left-hander Jacob Kneifl and sophomore right-hander Josh Kilzer ready to lead the charge. 

“We are bringing back a lot of guys from last year,” Obrecht said. “We have the most experience on the mound and our guys have been doing really well.” 

The Wildcats have started to set goals for this team, the main two being to reach the 30-win mark and make the NSIC conference tournament. 

“This team practices and play with a lot of energy,” Koch said. “This team embraces the ‘work hard, play hard’ motto, and that’s what people can expect to see from us this year.” 

The Wildcats begin their 2023 campaign on February 17, when they take on the Missouri S&T University Miners in Rolla, Missouri. Their first home game will be played against the Minnesota Crookston Golden Eagles on March 18.