Weather permitting, the Hope College baseball team will get an early jump on their season beginning with back-to-back doubleheaders this weekend (March 10-11) against Indiana opponents DePauw (Greencastle, 1 p.m. Friday) and Rose-Hulman (Terre Haute, noon Saturday).
Hope will also travel to Concordia in Ann Arbor next Wednesday (March 15) for a single nine inning game (4 p.m.).
The Flying Dutchmen typically begin the season with their annual Florida trip during the college's spring break. That will occur from March 18-24 in Cape Coral, Fla. with 10 games scheduled against seven opponents. The regular season begins Tuesday, March 28 with a home game and MIAA conference will be launched the weekend of April 7-8.
Coach Stu Fritz's Dutchmen are coming off an MIAA co-championship season, the team's third straight title and the sixth during the decade of the 1990s. The team posted an 18-17 overall record.
Fritz begins his seventh season as head coach. His teams are 104-101-2 overall and 71-41 against MIAA opponents, including a 46-14 mark during the past three conference championship campaigns.
The Dutchmen face a major rebuilding job with the graduation of seven senior starters, including four All-MIAA players.
"We'll be young, but I can see real potential in this group of players," said Fritz. "It could take us until the conference season to jell, but I have great hopes. This great weather has allowed to be outdoors alot more than usual. Sometimes in the past we haven't practice outdoors until we reached Florida."
The pre-season roster of 26 players includes 16 returning letterwinners. Senior Ben Fellows of Lansing (Eastern HS) will be team captain. He'll switch from the outfield to third base. Other seniors include pitcher Curt Kesler of Midland (Midland HS), first baseman Jeremy Gasper of Belding (Belding HS), first baseman and designated hitter Brock Isanhart of DeWitt (DeWitt HS).
Other returning letterwinners are sophomore second baseman Nick Grinzinger of Mt. Pleasant (Sacred Heart HS), sophomore pitcher Mark Simonson of Holland (Holland HS), sophomore pitcher Jason Montgomery of South Haven (South Haven HS), sophomore catcher Mike Hulliberger of Williamston (Williamston HS), sophomore pitcher Kevin Kittle of North Adams (Jerome HS), sophomore pitcher Dave Lichtenberger of Lansing (Sexton HS), junior pitcher Nate DeVisser of Mattawan (Mattawan HS), junior third baseman Ed Gall of Saline (Saline HS), sophomore catcher Rob Long of Holland (Holland HS), junior shortstop Sean Bateman of Saline (Saline HS) and junior catcher Clark Beacom of Sault St. Marie (Sault Area HS).
Bateman was a first team All-MIAA honoree at third base last spring. He'll switch to shortstop this year. He batted .347 overall last spring and .425 against MIAA opponents, second best in the league. Fellows and Beacom were also among the league's top hitters finishing fifth (.375) and seventh (.361) respectively.
Kittle had an excellent first collegiate season on the mound posting a 4-2 record in league games. He was 5-3 overall with four complete games in 10 starts. DeVisser also made a successful move into the starting rotation going 3-0, all in league games.
The Hope coaching staff will include longtime assistant coach Ron Boeve and recent Hope grad Chad Ruby, an All-MIAA third baseman.