IUS baseball off to hot start despite the cold

Elijah Lossner

The Grenadiers baseball season started on Feb. 14 despite the unfavorable weather conditions across the nation. The bad weather has forced seven cancellations and four postponements in just the first three weeks of the season.

Never-the-less, the show must go on and that show is led by head coach Benjamin Reel, who at age 29, is in his sixth season as the Grenadiers head coach. Reel is a former player at IU Southeast where he was first team all-conference in 2006. He has an overall record of 164-112-1, with four regular season titles and two conference tournament championships.

After five full seasons as head coach, Reel said he has learned that being a successful coach isn’t just about focusing on the wins and losses. His philosophy is much deeper than that. He believes that if you coach the players into being good young men, then the wins will come.

“My main responsibility is to mold someone’s son into being a man,” said Reel. “A lot of times in coaching they always focus on how hard somebody throws or how fast somebody run’s, but they never really measure what’s inside somebody’s ribcage.”

That might sound like a cliché, but this year’s team had 27 players that made it onto the honor roll and are poised to make another serious run at the KIAC conference title.

IU Southeast went 28-26 last season and made it all the way to the conference championship before falling to Point Park 8-6 in a heart breaker in which the Grenadiers were up by four runs late in the game. That loss has provided some motivation for some of the returning players from last year’s team.

One of those players is Frank Pluskota, senior infielder. Pluskota is a big hitter that sits in the middle of the lineup. He batted .338 last year with 30 RBI, and walked 37 times in just 160 at-bats.

“Last year was the second year in-a-row that Point Park ended our season,” said Pluskota. “My sophomore season, they ended it in regionals and last year they ended it here, on our home field, and they “dog-piled” on our home field which left a bitter taste in our mouths.”

This season through 15 games Pluskota is batting .378 with 9 RBI.

The Grenadiers are off to an 10-9 start despite not having a single practice on an actual baseball field during the first two weeks of the season. Brian Crider, senior catcher, said a big reason for that is because of this team’s chemistry.

“I think last year there were a lot of individuals on the team,” said Crider. “This year’s team seems to be clicking a lot more.”

Crider will be helping to call the pitches behind the plate. Reel, a former catcher, said he likes to call many of the pitches but also relies on his catcher’s insight as well to keep opposing hitters off balance.

One weapon added to this already tough pitching staff is transfer Shane Weedman, junior pitcher. Reel said Weedman will undoubtedly garner some attention from professional scouts. The six foot five Weedman owns a big curve ball and has already recorded 16 strikeouts in just 12 innings pitched, while going 2-0.

As the winter slowly begins to turn into spring and this team finally gets to practice in the sun, Crider thinks they will be a tough team to beat when conference play begins.

“We are already off to a decent start and we’ve hit some bumps in the road that are just part of the process of getting better,” said Crider. “But once it comes together we are going to be hard to stop, that’s a guarantee.”

Next up for the Grenadiers is a home double-header today, March 14 at 1 p.m. against No. 19 ranked Point Park. That will be conference opener for the Grenadiers who will face Point Park again on Saturday starting at noon.