A lone luchador bounded through the air after his at-bat on Sunday afternoon. (Photo: Kaylee McGhee / Hillsdale Col­legian)

The fall is the off­season for col­le­giate baseball, but don’t tell that to the men of Hillsdale College baseball.

On Sunday, the Chargers played their annual Hal­loween game, which capped off an intense fall season which saw exhi­bi­tions, scrim­mages, and workouts before the sun came up.

The final two weeks of the fall season proved to be the most chal­lenging for the team, with the seniors splitting the squad into two teams to go head-to-head with each other in two major com­pe­ti­tions.

First, the teams squared off in the Fall Classic, a series of scrim­mages which allowed the teams to accrue points towards the second com­pe­tition: The Prairie Chal­lenge.

The Prairie Chal­lenge con­sisted of four days of gru­eling fitness and endurance chal­lenges. These chal­lenges included every­thing from “squat until you drop”  to team tele­phone-pole carries. On Friday, the teams con­cluded the chal­lenge on the football field, com­pleting a series of taxing tests before the sun had even crest.

While the week was chal­lenging, the team came out of it stronger on the other side, senior out­fielder Jared Piper said.

“You find out who your leaders are when some­thing like this is really hard,” he said. “We have a super young team, and this was a good way to get them used to what we expect here.”

When Piper says “super young,” he means it. The Chargers grad­uated 11 seniors off of last-year’s tour­nament team. A new wave of nine freshmen replaced these grad­uates, leaving only nine upper­classmen on the roster.

Head coach Eric Theisen — 2016 GLIAC Coach of the Year — said the fall season is a good way to introduce the freshmen to the team, while making every player on the team men­tally stronger.

“This gets them to their breaking point, and they learn that they can move past it,” he said. “They learn how to be good team­mates when guys are strug­gling and how to be good team­mates when they are strug­gling. They learn how to be a leader when their team needs a leader.”

The Fall Classic and the Prairie Chal­lenge came on the heels of exhi­bition games against Siena Heights, Albian, and Kala­mazoo. According to Theisen, these games gave the team a chance to see some unfa­miliar faces on the mound and in the box.

For the freshmen class, it served as an intro­duction to col­le­giate baseball.

“There is a def­i­nitely an adjustment getting used to all of the workouts and the intensity of it all,” freshmen pitcher Kolton Rominski said. “Pitching wise, all of your mis­takes are that much more mag­nified. You can’t sneak any­thing by. Every­thing you do has to be more precise.”

The fall season ended on a light note Sunday, with the annual Hal­loween game, where the players faced each other for a final scrimmage, but all decked out in their Hal­loween cos­tumes. Every­thing from gnomes to pen­guins were out patrolling the field and taking cuts.

“It’s our last hurray of the fall,” Piper said. “It’s pretty sweet to come out and be goofy and blow off steam.”

Theisen said he saw his team progress quickly this fall, but that didn’t come as much of a shock.

“I am never sur­prised when our guys do well. We recruit these guys because they are good, and we know they are good.” he said. “Some­times the fun part is seeing them realize how good they are.”

As the team of green­horns heads into its final GLIAC season, Theisen said he is excited to see what the squad will do in 2017, fol­lowing a 2016 cam­paign that saw the Chargers reach the national tour­nament for the first time in history.

“We sur­prised some people last year,” he said. “We think we can do it again this year.”

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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: | twitter: @StevanBennett