BEMIDJI – Last season the Bemidji State baseball team had its third-best season in school history and missed the playoffs by one game. The Beavers finished 23-27 overall and 16-20 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
This season, which begins today at the Metrodome, BSU’s nine returning seniors will look to take the next step and make it to the playoffs.
“This is probably the most experienced team that we have ever had,” head coach Tim Bellew said. “It is not just experience either: This group has experience of winning.”
The 2013 season will begin today at 10:45 a.m. with a pair of games against Northern State; the Beavers will take on Sioux Falls for another pair of games Saturday.
The four games are a part of an eight-game stint in the Metrodome to start the season.
BSU’s nine seniors include top pitchers Phil Bray, Logan Kalis and Jaryd Marks, as well as lineup standouts Matt Ellinghuysen, Trevor Purvis and Lewis Baumann.
“A lot of the guys who are seniors were here playing as freshmen,” Bray said. “Having a lot of guys with four years of playing experience under our belt is a great thing to have.”
Kalis went 4-6 on the mound last season while also belting a team-high 10 home runs and driving in 43 runs.
Bray won a team-high seven games while Marks led all starting pitchers with a 4.08 ERA.
Also returning from last season’s team is Zach Braun, who hit a team-best .391 in 37 games.
“In our minds, we have a record in mind that we want to have after these games,” Bellew said. “But more importantly, I want to see us play good baseball.
“I want to see us pitch well and play good defense. The bats always take a little while because it is a little bit harder adjusting from hitting in a cage. Overall, I just want us to play smart and put the ball in play.”
Both Bray and Kalis are excited to open the season in the Metrodome.
“I love playing in the Dome,” Bray said. “Anywhere we can get out playing early is great.”
“The Dome is great for pitchers, it is a big yard to work with,” Kalis added. “Overall, it is a great facility for early season games. We are lucky to have it.”
Following the two weekends in Minneapolis, the team will head to Tucson, Ariz., for six games in the Tucson Invitational.
Bemidji State is scheduled to play Southwest Minnesota State, Minot State, Jamestown College and Macalester College in the spring break tournament.
“I am a little disappointed,” Bellew said. “We usually go down to Phoenix and play teams we normally would not see. Now in Tucson, four of our games are against NSIC opponents. Going to Tucson is just the way that it worked out this year. I think that will change next season.”
“It will show us what the conference competition is going to be like,” Bray added. “But then again, it is nice playing against teams that you know nothing about.”
The conference schedule will begin on Saturday, March 23, against Winona State. The Beavers’ first 10 conference games will be on the road before hosting University of Mary on April 6.
“I just want to start the year playing good baseball,” Kalis said. “Once we get to conference play we want to start winning and get to the playoffs.”
The goal of making the playoffs is one that both the players and coach Bellew share.
“If we do not make the playoffs this year, I am going to be upset,” Bellew said. “That is our number one goal and I think our players will be upset too if we do not achieve that goal.”
Bray said the team expects a lot.
“I expect great things, from both the team and myself,” he said. “I think we are going to have a great year.”