The Ashland University baseball team will head to the Sunshine State for its annual spring break trip that will feature nine games in nine days against quality competition.
The Florida schedule next includes games against Seton Hill, which has played in the last eight NCAA Tournaments and averages 40 wins per season in that stretch. The Eagles will also play Minnesota State, which has been to the Division II World Series four of the last nine years, and the defending national champion, Augustana.
"We're looking forward to the challenges," said AU head coach John Schaly, who is in his 22nd season with the Eagles. "We're playing some really good teams. That's what we want and see how we match up. That's how we get better, by playing good people."
The Eagles (3-0) come into the spring trip with an unblemished record after traveling to Nashville last week and coming away with three wins. Ashland beat Rockhurst twice, 5-2 and 7-5, and also blanked Trevecca Nazarene, 6-0.
As a team, the Eagles posted a 2.00 ERA with junior right-hander Chance Hitchcock winning GLIAC Pitcher of the Week honors with his win over Rockhurst. Senior right-hander Devin Peters also struck out 11 in seven innings in the Eagles' 6-0 win over the Trojans. Sophomore righty Josh Stover started the other game, giving up just two runs in six innings.
"We've got a lot of experience and we feel we have a lot of depth pitching-wise, more than we've had in a number of years," Schaly said. "We feel really confident that our pitchers can match up well. We have to play good defense behind them, help them out."
Offensively, the bats did enough damage to produce three wins, but Schaly knows that group is not totally clicking yet. While they averaged six runs per game, they hit just .239 overall, but reached base at a .411 clip.
"We think we can swing the bats a little better," he said. "It's early in the year and pitchers tend to be ahead of the hitters. The big strength was our pitching and our defense. We know we're going to be a better offensive team. That will come with time."
The time in the warm Florida air, and playing every day, will help.
"Playing in nice weather, but also playing every day where our hitters see live pitching," said Schaly. "They'll start to get in a groove."
The Eagles will start play against Seton Hill on Saturday (March 2) at noon and continue with one game per day through Sunday (March 10) when they play Notre Dame (Ohio).