Spring time is upon us, and that can mean only one thing-it’s time for a little baseball. The Braves fell one game short of competing in the NJCAA Division II World Series last season, and this year they are focused on making another run towards winning a championship.
The Braves have won six Arrowhead Conference Titles in a row, and 24 titles overall in the program’s history. One important factor for the team’s recent success is Head Coach Arnie Chavera. Coach Chavera is a former minor league pro baseball player, where he spent part of his career playing for the Quad Cities River Bandits. After retiring from the game back in 2001, he began his coaching career as an Assistant Coach for Davenport Assumption High School for two years, and then went on to be an Assistant Coach at St. Ambrose University for two years. He was also a strength coach for the River Bandits in 2004, who at the time were the farm team for the Minnesota Twins.
Coach Chavera is entering his 11th season as head coach for the Braves and as a former pro baseball player, he knows what it takes to win on the diamond. Coach Chavera has definitely added to the program’s winning tradition by leading the Brave’s to nine Arrowhead Conference Titles in 11 seasons.
Black Hawk’s baseball program is in the business of winning, and as always is the case with this program, expectations are very high for this year’s team. Getting to the World Series in Enid, Oklahoma is the ultimate goal.
“We always have high expectations here. On day one, first practice, we talk about the World Series and winning a National Championship.” Coach Chavera said. “It’s not something we run from by all means. It’s something we want to discuss and we want to embrace that challenge.”
Centerfielder, Matt Fallon, agrees that winning a National Championship is this year’s ultimate goal.
“Going to the World Series, which is what we’ve been talking about since the beginning of the fall, is our goal and it’s been our goal for now my second year here. We plan on winning our sectional and hopefully hosting it, winning the regional, and then from there heading to Enid for the World Series.”
Coach Chavera and his staff have high expectations for the team off the field as well. They expect their players to go to class and to do well in the class room. Every year, the baseball program strives for an overall team GPA of at least a 3.0, and for the past two seasons the team has met those expectations. As Coach Chavera points out, that’s pretty good when you have 35-40 ball players on the team.
All it takes is a few minutes of attending a game to realize that there’s something special about the unity this year’s team has. Every time a player scores a run or makes a great play, the whole bench is on their feet in the dugout cheering and high fiving one another.
“We really promote an atmosphere of being engaged. I want my guys to be engaged into the game,” Coach Chavera said. The Braves have a dugout participation chart that consist of a list of things the coaching staff wants the players to do or say during the game.
One player who doesn’t shy away from being a vocal presence on the field or in the dugout is sophomore John Boidanis, who plays third and first base for the Braves. Boidanis can be heard from the stands constantly encouraging his teammates. According to Coach Chavera, his team benefits from having a vocal leader like Boidanis on the team.
“He’s a captain and a third year guy, he was red-shirted his first year. He’s really the leader of the team at this point… He’s a guy that everyone kind of buys into, he works as hard as anybody and he’s as classy as anyone on the team.”
The Braves will be leaning on all of their captains this year to lead the way for the first year guys on the team. Sophomore starting pitchers Connor Riley and C.J. Martin are two captains and the coaching staff expect those guys to lead the pitching staff, which has nine freshman pitchers this year.
Another captain is right hand pitcher Cody Sorensen, whom the Braves will rely on as a reliever and closer this year. Coach Chavera is also expecting centerfielder Matt Fallon to do some great things as well.
Coach Chavera and his staff make sure they always account for having plenty of depth on the team while they’re recruiting during the offseason. The talent on this year’s roster is evident that they have quite a knack for requiring the right kind of players.
“We’re kind of balanced from sophomores to freshman. We got some great freshman and some great sophomores, so this is arguably the best team I’ve ever had,” Coach Chavera said.
The Braves started the season competing in eight games over spring break in Panama City Beach, Florida. Unfortunately, the Braves went winless in those eight games, but four of those games they only lost by one run and two of those one run losses were in extra innings. Even though the Braves were unable to grab a victory in Florida, the team still came away with plenty of optimism for the rest of the season.
“Even though we went 0-8, there were a lot of positive aspects. We were hitting the ball really well, we played some pretty decent defense, and our pitching looked really good. We lost a lot of close games, and we have to push ourselves in practice to be mentally stronger, so we can win those games down the line and in the postseason,” said pitcher C.J. Martin.
The misfortunes in Florida were not enough to side track the Braves from carrying on with their mission of reaching the World Series. Since coming home, the Braves have won eight games in a row and have improved their record to 8-8.
Between watching our fellow student-athletes displaying their talents on the field, hearing the energetic players on the bench rallying their teammates, and getting the opportunity to enjoy double headers for every home game, there are plenty of reasons to head out to the ball park located on campus and support the 2015 Men’s Baseball team.