At the beginning of spring, the Castleton Spartans were right where they wanted to be. They were returning to action as the defending North Atlantic Conference champions, they had plenty of players from last season’s team and they were picked four votes to one by the other NAC coaches to repeat as champions.But despite all that, coach Ted Shipley spoke about his team with a cautious voice in late March, saying that the team’s lack of experience could be a problem.
“We have quite a few players that have not played enough baseball in their lives to be ready and able to compete initially successfully at this level,” he said.
At the time, the Spartans’ record reflected Shipley’s concerns as they were just 3-7 against non-conference teams.
Since Shipley spoke those words, though, the Spartans have kicked into a higher gear.
The Spartans have just finished their last regular season games, and their record now shows that they have enough experience to dominate the NAC.
They are 23-12 overall, and they have a 15-1 NAC record, earning them the coveted top seed as they anticipate the playoffs.
The Spartans have looked particularly experienced at crushing the ball.
After suffering from a slow start offensively, the Spartans have found their groove, and their bats have been lethal over the second half of the season.
In the team’s first 17 games, the offense drove in just 82 runs. In the past 18 games, though, the offense has hammered opposing pitching and driven in an astounding 227 runs.
Matt Eisenhuth, who is leading the Spartans in batting average at .428, spoke cautiously just as Shipley did a month ago about the Spartans’ future.
“We have accomplished our first goal, and that was to get number-one seed in the NAC. But the competition on the way wasn’t of the caliber we want to be winning against,” he said. “I think the conference playoffs have the potential to cause some difficulties for us. We have beat up on a lot of these teams during the regular season. This only makes us the team that everyone is out to get. They have nothing to lose.”
Eisenhuth said that in order to avoid an upset in the tournament, the Spartans will need to focus on the future and not be content with their past performances.
“The most important thing is for us to forget the regular season because it doesn’t matter anymore. Scoring 15 runs off their number-four pitcher means nothing now. We need to beat their best and take no one lightly.”
The Spartans will get their chance when the NAC tournament begins on May 1.