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Baseball

Senior-laden Geneva eyes regional title to accompany Ws

GENEVA – If you’re a competitor, you like to win.

Geneva baseball coach Matt Hahn loves to win, but even after his ninth straight 20-win season in 2015, the Vikings were still searching for their first regional title since 2008.

Hahn has a team full of experienced, like-minded seniors with the determination to snap that drought and end their careers on a high note.

“Anytime you play an athletic contest, you want to win,” Hahn said. “We’ve won our fair share of games over the past few years, but we have run into a wall in that regional championship game. I think for us it’s trying to make sure we are peaking at the right time. We need to get over the hump, and I think we’re going to try and experiment with more guys early in the year and that we’re relying on a number of guys instead of just a couple.”

If the Vikings – who finished 21-12 last season after a loss in a regional final to Glenbard North – are going to be successful in 2016, it will be because of the 11 seniors on their roster.

Look no further than the pitchers and entire infield, as Hahn said his top three pitchers and all four starting infield positions will be held by seniors.

Bryan Callaly figures to be the pitching staff’s ace, with southpaw Mitchell Merges and Trevor Wilcox picking up important innings, too. Merges had offseason surgery on a torn labrum in his right, nonthrowing shoulder in the offseason.

Geneva’s third baseman might be the biggest piece to its success with University of Minnesota-bound Jack Wassel moving over from his usual shortstop position. Vince MacDonald will start at shortstop, with Justin Hasegawa at second and A.J. Hostman at first base.

“I think we have a good amount of talent with this group,” Wassel said. “I think our biggest thing is coming together as a team. I think we have what it takes, talent-wise, to get to a regional and maybe further. We just have to keep coming to the field every day, ready to work hard. If we bring that intensity and focus each day, I think it’ll help put us in position to get a lot of wins.”

Wassel will look to build on a junior season in which he batted .413.

The Vikings were shut out in their season opener at Elk Grove, but Hahn thinks in order to better assess what his team will be able to accomplish in 2016, it just needs to play more games.

Ask and you shall receive. Geneva (0-1) will have doubleheaders today and Monday before traveling to play four spring break games in Nashville, Tennessee, starting Thursday.

“We need to play. We need some data,” Hahn said. “We need to see what guys can do in game situations, see where we need to make adjustments and who to put where in the lineup. We have an idea, but if you look at my opening day lineup compared to regionals, it’s almost always different every year. I think we’ll be able to better assess what this team can do after break.”

Hostman, the team’s primary third baseman in 2015, will move to play first this season. While it’s hard to look past winning and losing each time the Vikings take the field, that’s been more of the mindset from a senior class wanting to leave its mark on the program.

Wins are nice, but plaques are even better.

“We want it and emphasize that a lot,” Hostman said. “We’ve really been working hard leading up to the season, and I think it’ll pay off. I think maybe since we haven’t won [a regional] in a while, people don’t expect us to go far, and I think we could surprise a lot of people.”

Geneva will have to be at the top of its game when the Upstate Eight Conference River Division play gets under way with St. Charles North, Batavia and St. Charles East all expected to contend with the Vikings for the conference title.

As focused as Hahn is on peaking during the postseason, he doesn’t look past the opportunity that he feels the Vikings have to pay with every team they take the field against.

“Our conference is one of the toughest in the area, if not the state,” Hahn said. “Finishing third or fourth should not be looked at as a negative thing. Our goal, obviously, is to win the conference and we have had our chances to do so. We’ll be ready and give it our best. From there, we’ll let the records fall where they do.”

GENEVA – If you’re a competitor, you like to win.

Geneva baseball coach Matt Hahn loves to win, but even after his ninth straight 20-win season in 2015, the Vikings were still searching for their first regional title since 2008.

Hahn has a team full of experienced, like-minded seniors with the determination to snap that drought and end their careers on a high note.

“Anytime you play an athletic contest, you want to win,” Hahn said. “We’ve won our fair share of games over the past few years, but we have run into a wall in that regional championship game. I think for us it’s trying to make sure we are peaking at the right time. We need to get over the hump, and I think we’re going to try and experiment with more guys early in the year and that we’re relying on a number of guys instead of just a couple.”

If the Vikings – who finished 21-12 last season after a loss in a regional final to Glenbard North – are going to be successful in 2016, it will be because of the 11 seniors on their roster.

Look no further than the pitchers and entire infield, as Hahn said his top three pitchers and all four starting infield positions will be held by seniors.

Bryan Callaly figures to be the pitching staff’s ace, with southpaw Mitchell Merges and Trevor Wilcox picking up important innings, too. Merges had offseason surgery on a torn labrum in his right, nonthrowing shoulder in the offseason.

Geneva’s third baseman might be the biggest piece to its success with University of Minnesota-bound Jack Wassel moving over from his usual shortstop position. Vince MacDonald will start at shortstop, with Justin Hasegawa at second and A.J. Hostman at first base.

“I think we have a good amount of talent with this group,” Wassel said. “I think our biggest thing is coming together as a team. I think we have what it takes, talent-wise, to get to a regional and maybe further. We just have to keep coming to the field every day, ready to work hard. If we bring that intensity and focus each day, I think it’ll help put us in position to get a lot of wins.”

Wassel will look to build on a junior season in which he batted .413.

The Vikings were shut out in their season opener at Elk Grove, but Hahn thinks in order to better assess what his team will be able to accomplish in 2016, it just needs to play more games.

Ask and you shall receive. Geneva (0-1) will have doubleheaders today and Monday before traveling to play four spring break games in Nashville, Tennessee, starting Thursday.

“We need to play. We need some data,” Hahn said. “We need to see what guys can do in game situations, see where we need to make adjustments and who to put where in the lineup. We have an idea, but if you look at my opening day lineup compared to regionals, it’s almost always different every year. I think we’ll be able to better assess what this team can do after break.”

Hostman, the team’s primary third baseman in 2015, will move to play first this season. While it’s hard to look past winning and losing each time the Vikings take the field, that’s been more of the mindset from a senior class wanting to leave its mark on the program.

Wins are nice, but plaques are even better.

“We want it and emphasize that a lot,” Hostman said. “We’ve really been working hard leading up to the season, and I think it’ll pay off. I think maybe since we haven’t won [a regional] in a while, people don’t expect us to go far, and I think we could surprise a lot of people.”

Geneva will have to be at the top of its game when the Upstate Eight Conference River Division play gets under way with St. Charles North, Batavia and St. Charles East all expected to contend with the Vikings for the conference title.

As focused as Hahn is on peaking during the postseason, he doesn’t look past the opportunity that he feels the Vikings have to pay with every team they take the field against.

“Our conference is one of the toughest in the area, if not the state,” Hahn said. “Finishing third or fourth should not be looked at as a negative thing. Our goal, obviously, is to win the conference and we have had our chances to do so. We’ll be ready and give it our best. From there, we’ll let the records fall where they do.”

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