Hawks’ goal on Florida trip is to become part of national contender conversation — now and for seasons to come
QUINCY — Asked what he hoped his team’s accomplishes on a seven-game, 11-day trip to the Sunshine State, Quincy University baseball coach Matt Schissel responded with his own query.
“Short term or long term?” he asked.
Everything Schissel does for this program is viewed through both of those lenses.
In this case, the short-term answer is what you would expect — compete, build confidence and gain experience.
“I want these guys to see they are as good as anybody else,” Schissel said.
They’ll be facing some of the best. The University of Tampa, which has won eight NCAA Division II national championships since 1992, is ranked third in the NCBWA preseason national poll. Rollins College won three games at the D-II World Series last year and is No. 10 to open the season. St. Leo University hosted an NCAA regional last season.
“We go all year long and you see the same teams in the top 10 more or less,” Schissel said. “You hear about Tampa every year. You hear about Rollins. I want our guys to see, ‘Hey, we’re right there.’ This is a trip that is going to give our guys that chance to understand this is Division II baseball, you’re right there, all is good.”
Long term, Schissel wants the Hawks to be part of that top-10 conversation on an annual basis.
“For us to be in that conversation, we have to go play Tampa. We have to go play Rollins,” Schissel said. “We have to play Central Missouri every year. That’s the long-term goal with scheduling. We want to be in the conversation anywhere you’re talking Division II baseball in the country.”
The Hawks have made seven consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, played in a super regional a year ago and are six years removed from the only World Series appearance in program history.
Quincy is the most successful Great Lakes Valley Conference program over the past decade, yet it doesn’t immediately come to mind when the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association conducts its national poll or prognosticators pencil in the teams destined to reach Cary, N.C., and the World Series.
“We have to play the type of teams we’re facing on this trip to garner that national respect,” Schissel said. “We’re knocking on the door. We have to take what we’ve done and keep pushing forward.”
A veteran team with a winning know-how is the right group to make the push.
The Hawks open their season Friday night at Tampa in the first of three games at the UT Baseball Field, and they will trot out senior right-hander Spencer Walker for the first start. Walker is a preseason first-team All-American who went 10-1 last season and is the ace of a stout staff.
Right-hander Jay Hammel, who chose to return as a graduate student after winning nine games last season, and junior left-hander Griffin Kirn, a Quincy Notre Dame graduate, give the Hawks an experienced weekend rotation.
The everyday lineup features a wealth of experience, too. First baseman Lance Logsdon is QU’s career leader in home runs and RBIs and has played in three NCAA regionals. Shortstop Gino D’Alessio and third baseman Nolan Wosman have each started more than 100 games and both have .310 or better career batting averages.
Junior catcher Luke Napleton, who hit 20 home runs last season, is a preseason second-team All-American, and senior Brock Boynton begins his third season as the defensive anchor in center field, having committed no errors last season.
“Go down the list — lineup, rotation, bullpen — and we have guys who have been there,” Schissel said.
Even so, there are nine freshmen who made the travel roster, and their will to win seems as strong as any of the returnees.
“It’s a totally different vibe,” Schissel said. “I know it’s a lot of the same faces, but it’s a different team vibe this year.”
That’s because the goal isn’t just to reach the World Series. It’s to set a new standard where Quincy is considered a serious national championship contender every year.
The time has come to have that conversation.
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