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The pop of a fastball landing in a catcher’s mitt.  The ping of a ball of exploding off of a bat. If you walk past the barn down on the intra­mural fields you will likely hear these sounds coming together in a sym­phony that can only mean one thing: It is almost baseball season.

Hillsdale’s baseball team will open the season with a dou­ble­header this weekend in Louisville, Ken­tucky, with games against Bel­larmine Uni­versity and Alderson-Broaddus Uni­versity.

The promise of finally playing games comes as a welcome sound to the team, which has been working year round to make this season a success.

“In the fall we’re in the weight room four days a week,” head coach Eric Theisen said. “We’re just out there trying to make the sure the guys have a good feel for each other, and that everybody is up to speed.”

Despite all of the work put in during the fall semester, the guys showed up after Christmas knowing it was time to put in serious work.

“You come back and you have to make sure you can be ready to go for the first week,” senior pitcher Shane Arm­strong said. “We’re throwing live [batting practice] to each other down in the cages and just trying to be as sharp as pos­sible before we start playing.”

Last season the Chargers went 17 – 33 overall and 14 – 19 in GLIAC play. This year, the GLIAC North Division coaches poll pre­dicted the Chargers to finish fourth, but the Chargers have a spe­cific goal in mind.

“We want to make the con­ference tour­nament,” Theisen said. “If you make the tour­nament, you show up, play your butts off, and any­thing can happen.”

The team has set-up a reg­u­lation sized infield in the Biermann Ath­letic Center to practice this semester.

“Any chance we can get to set up a 90x90 infield is valuable,” Theisen said. “We’re able to get in there and at least walk through some game sit­u­a­tions. Just make sure we know our play calls, our defensive pri­or­ities, and our base-running strategies.”

Unfor­tu­nately for the team their games cannot be played indoors, and so this means some­times braving the ele­ments to work on fun­da­mentals.

“We def­i­nitely had some pretty cold prac­tices,” Arm­strong said. “We know we’re probably going to see it once the season starts, so we want to be out in it.  It’s the same thing we deal with every year.”

Even with all the talk of “work,” the guys on the team keep in mind that they are still playing a game.

“Coach Theisen always says after a bad practice, ‘you’re going to mess up in life.  You can’t dwell on it.  You’re going to have plenty of oppor­tu­nities to make that mistake right,’” freshman out­fielder Ryan O’Hearn said. “We’re really out there just trying to stay loose and just have fun.”

The team’s assistant coach is Gordon Theisen, head coach Eric Theisen’s father, and the players say that this can some­times cause comical sit­u­a­tions.

“The Theisens def­i­nitely go at it some­times, so that’s always funny,” O’Hearn said. “It works well because they’re always on the same page.  They both believe in ‘Theisen baseball,’ which means you play hard, get dirty, and have fun.”

The team will play their first 18 games on the road, before opening their home season on March 18 against Wayne State.

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Stevan Bennett Jr. is a senior from the pumpkin capital of the world, Morton, Illinois. He is studying economics and journalism, and plans on attending law school after Hillsdale. He has written for the Collegian since 2014 and is the sports editor. His addictions include coffee, the Chicago Cubs, NHL 2015, and miscellaneous adventuring. email: Sbennett1@hillsdale.edu | twitter: @StevanBennett