Greetings baseball fans, my name is Jason Hoppe and I am currently a senior pitcher for the Minnesota State University, Mankato baseball team. It’s unreal how time flies by, I still remember the nerves of going to practice the first day as a 150-pound freshman. Instead of giving you guys a background on myself, I have a buddy who is the editor-in-chief for our local newspaper here in Mankato who wrote a fantastic article in the beginning of the 2013 season on my journey thus far. If you get a chance check out the article here.
When I was asked to give my thoughts and personal experiences on baseball I was pretty ecstatic to say the least. Over the years here at Minnesota State University Mankato, through classes and baseball, I have learned the more you write things down the easier it is to recall and the desired outcome is much more attainable.
For those of you who don’t know, our team has been fortunate enough to endure multitudes of success the past two years, making back to back appearances in the DII World Series, taking 3rd in 2012 and 2nd last year falling to a talented Tampa team. I figured, since anything less than winning a national championship this year will be a disappointment, writing a blog about the current years successes and struggles would be another opportunity to not only learn about myself but hopefully open my eyes to be able to give this team the best shot at being the last flag waving this year, in Cary, NC.
I am writing to you now, from a coach bus on our way down to beautiful Tahlequah, Oklahoma for our second road trip of the year (about a 10-hour bus ride). No, I have never been to or heard of this location but am sure my “beautiful” expression will be spot-on seeing how anything above freezing will do. Minnesota weather this winter, has been miserable to say the least. Sub-zero temperatures have become the standard and I could count the days on one hand where it has been above 30 degrees. But, in my personal opinion this weather makes us stronger as it physically and mentally tries to break us down daily with bone chilling temperatures and fierce winds, but we just won’t give in.
Back to the road trip, I apologize for the “Minnesota tough” reference.
Just to get you guys caught up to this point in the year. Our first series of the year, last weekend, was held in Monticello, Arkansas against UAM. Game 1, I had been given the nod and the ball was placed in my hand to start off our journey back to Cary. Cocky, no; confident, yes. The Boll Weevils came out swinging, (literally first pitch of the game) hitting a sharp ground ball through the left side of the infield. After dancing out of some tough situations early in the game, I settled in finding confidence in my off-speed and was able to give seven strong innings after being taken out in the eighth. The score going into the eighth was 4-0 in our favor and the Weevils were able to get three runs back, charged to me, making it a one run game headed into the ninth; a high intensity situation late in the game, a perfect scenario where this team flourishes. Our reliever was able to come in and close the door giving us the first of many W’s on the year to come.
Game 2, the Boll Weevils momentum from late in the previous game was apparent, scoring 3 runs in the bottom of the first inning off of some well-hit balls to the gaps. That’s the fascinating thing about baseball, no matter the situation, a spark is all it takes to ignite a team into a wild fire. An 8th inning rally from the previous game had given them a spark, a feeling that they can hang with one of the top-ranked teams in the nation, and they responded. We were able to tie the game up at 3 in the 4th inning but unable to withstand the confident flaming hot Weevil hitters, as they answered with 3 more of their own in the bottom of the inning. The offensive firepower from UAM was ultimately too much to handle as our team was unable to scratch back into the game, with a final of 8-5.
A split series to start off the year is something that most elite teams would be upset with. Yes, we aren’t thrilled we lost to a team that had gone 0-37 in 2008 but give credit to those guys, they can stick it. It’s early; hitting the panic button now would do no good.
Although we are returning most of our lineup and staff, we are still rotating different guys in different situations to see what they can do. Those couple pieces of the puzzle we lost last year are still trying to be filled and once they are, it’s going to be fun to watch.
Until then, we grind and trust the process. The term “grind” gets thrown around very loosely but I promise you, we grind harder than any other team out there because the target is on our back. Every team has marked the date that they play Minnesota State. We trust that the work we put in daily is eventually going to get us to where we want to be at the end of the year. There will be tough losses along the way, to teams we shouldn’t lose to, but its baseball. Learning from those losses and mistakes and embracing the weirdness that this team is going to develop with each other over the course of the year is what will hopefully put us on top, once and for all.
First game against Southwest Baptist is slated for noon tomorrow (Monday). These two games against Southwest Baptist are very important regional games that can affect our standings come playoff time. Our team is hungry to get back on the diamond and excited to see some sunshine!
I’ll be back in about a week or so to talk about the weekend’s results. I look forward to keeping everyone posted on our season.
Until then, you guys can follow the Mavericks at our website
Twitter – @TheJasonHoppe
Feel free to contact me with any questions or just baseball talk in general!