Photo Courtesy: Grand Canyon University Athletics
Grand Canyon University baseball has proven that they are ready for their Division I postseason eligibility in 2018.
Entering the final weekend of the 2017 season, the Lopes are 27-24 on the year and finished 20-4 in the conference, taking their second WAC title in the last three years.
In this last season before becoming postseason eligible, GCU head coach Andy Stankiewicz scheduled tough non-conference matchups in preparation for what is to come.
“You look at our out-of-conference schedule, we’ve played some pretty good programs,” Stankiewicz said. “The design for every season is to get better. We feel like guys are starting to find a little rhythm at the plate and on the mound, so far it’s worked out well.”
— GCU Baseball (@GCUBaseball) March 31, 2017
The Lopes opened 2017 at home with a big series win against top ranked Oklahoma State. They also hosted two games against Kansas and traveled to Tucson for one game, hosted another, against No. 18 Arizona. In early April, they traveled to No. 17 Arkansas.
“The guys know that those are great programs,” Stankiewicz said. “I think just the experience of going to a new place and seeing what it’s like, those bigger programs, I think it’s going to help us down the road.”
Junior outfielder Garrison Schwartz said that he feels playing the tough non-conference teams has helped the Lopes immensely in conference play.
“It’s games with good arms, so offensively you see good pitching and you adapt and you’re able to hit it,” Schwartz said. “In conference we see arms like that, but we’re ready for it and it’s just the better the competition, the higher level we have to play at, and then we elevate our game as well.”
In 2016, injuries plagued the Lopes resulting in younger guys needing to step up. The experience those guys got paid off this season.
“(Last year) we had our Friday night guy and our Saturday night guy both go down,” Stankiewicz said. “You’re asking guys to pitch in roles or play in roles that they’re not quite ready for yet. Part of the success…those guys got at-bats, they got innings pitched last year, even if it wasn’t so good, it helped them prepare for the next season.”
— GCU Baseball (@GCUBaseball) May 14, 2017
Beyond the team staying healthy this year, junior pitcher Jake Repavich feels the change in team chemistry has helped lead to the success the Lopes have had.
“I feel like everybody knows their role and sticks to that,” Repavich said. “As a team, we just go at it together. We have a much better bond.”
Schwartz said the team coming together and keeping a focus on their goals has helped drive them this season.
“The biggest thing about this year is we’re believing in ourselves,” Schwartz said. “In the clubhouse, it’s just a belief when you step on the field everybody’s got confidence. We step on the field and we know we’re going to play the game and play the game hard. It’s working well for us.”