Vikings set to test the waters in 2019 season

Lawrence baseball action Chris Shaw
Lawrence's Chris Shaw was the 2018 Midwest Conference North Division Pitcher of the Year.

APPLETON, Wis. -- Chris Krepline is ready for adversity, prepared for it, almost looking forward to it because he knows it's a necessity.

The new Lawrence University baseball coach invoked the Franklin D. Roosevelt quote, "A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor," when talking about the future for his Vikings.

The translation is Krepline knows his team may have to hit a few lows if it wants to experience some highs. A Reedsville native, Krepline took over for Jason Anderson, who stepped down this past summer after 10 seasons at the helm.

"I can say I think we are ready to go," said Krepline, a former Lawrence assistant who came back to the school after serving as the pitching coach at St. Norbert College for four seasons. "Ready to test the waters a bit. Any time with a team in the north, the players are itching to go and ready to get outside."

Lawrence started its season with a doubleheader split against Elmhurst College in frigid temperatures in southern Illinois. To prepare the Vikings for what lay ahead, Krepline brought a new perspective and attention to items both large and small.

"Coming in, I was able to give them a read on what other teams expected of them, kind of a scouting report," Krepline said. "Being an assistant here … gave me some insight to the potential that is here and what we can make of it. I think the biggest thing we've talked about is one pitch at a time, one inning at a time, one game at time.

"I think the attention to detail has been huge. The little things in practice, constantly moving, working to get better. We want everything to be a competition. Even during batting practice, we do things that are a competition with your teammates."

The Vikings won 15 games a season ago and qualified for the Midwest Conference Tournament for the first time since 1991. Lawrence lost All-Central Region and four-time All-Midwest Conference selection Matt Holliday and all-conference pitcher Kyle Duex to graduation.

Lawrence returns multiple position starters from last season, and the pitching staff boasts 2018 North Division Pitcher of the Year Chris Shaw. He averaged nearly a strikeout per inning and posted a 4.35 earned run average in 2018.

"We want to build on the strengths we had last year," Krepline said. "The areas where we are not as strong, hopefully the coaching staff can help bring us up to be more competitive in those areas."

The lineup should be sparked by shortstop Nolan Spencer, who hit .309 last season and stole 30 bases. The Vikings also return starters Mike Brady at third, utility man Reno Zemrak, outfielders Andrew Lauber and Rudy Mueller-Schrader and catchers Ethan Jones and Pat McDonnell. Multiple rookies, outfielders Colin Wieska and Jacob Charon, utility man Clayton Agler and infielder Spenser Ross, figure to play key roles and perhaps nail down starting jobs.

"We're going to have a big emphasis on pitching and defense, and I'm very aggressive on taking bases and on the offensive side as well," Krepline said. "I have that positive mentality that things are going to go well. I'm anxious to see how we are going to do, and I'm comfortable with how we've prepared them."