By Ben • Ben Schorzman • 

Wildcats heading south for the winter

“Seems kind of abnormally early, for sure,” Linfield coach Scott Brosius said.

It’s a yearly obstacle for college teams from the northern part of the United States.

“It goes with the territory here,” Brosius said. “We’ve started the season truly still in winter. The first part of the season is typically battling through marginal weather.”

Brosius said that Wednesday not long after the Wildcats finished one final practice before boarding a plane for Arizona. It rained most of the morning, and players also battled the cold rain Tuesday. The hope of the weather getting nicer as we progress further into spring is also tempered, though, in the Northwest.

Rain is always in the forecast well into May, but Brosius and the Wildcats are more optimistic this season about dealing with it. Over the summer the program made two significant upgrades to its field that will keep fewer games from getting cancelled or postponed. The Wildcats replaced their dirt mound with an artificial mound, and the outfield was completely re-sodded and a new drainage system put in to keep the ground more firm even during the hardest rains.

“It’s going to be able to handle any amounts of rain and still stay firm,” Brosius said. “That’s been really solid in the early goings.”

Linfield looks to get back to the postseason after being left out in 2012. The Wildcats started last year as the No. 2-ranked team in the nation but finished 25-15 and were not chosen as an at-large team. To add salt to the wound, Linfield was chosen as a regional site for the Division III playoffs, so players and were relegated to the bleachers to watch other teams compete.

“That left a bad taste in our mouth. That’s a good thing,” Brosius said. “Sometimes we need to have that little piece of chip (on our shoulder) that we come in to prove that we belong there.”

Linfield graduated six players from last year’s team, including four from the pitching staff. The biggest hits come from the loss of pitchers Ryan Larson and Robert Vaughan. Larson had a 7-2 record and 1.88 ERA in 2012.

“We had some big losses last year on our pitching staff,” Brosius said. “We feel real good about the guys we have right now. There will be some guys that need to step up and fill some great roles, but we have the talent. … We feel good about the depth.”

One those players who will be called upon to step up will be sophomore Chris Haddeland. Haddeland, who was the Pacific Conference Pitcher of the Year and an All-State selection when he played at McMinnville, will move into a starting role this year, Brosius said.

The Wildcats did keep a lot of experience in its batting lineup. Junior Tim Wilson returns after hitting .400 for the second consecutive season.

“There won’t be a ton of new faces offensively on this year’s team,” Brosius said.

Linfield is scheduled to play four games this weekend in Arizona. It plays at 1:30 p.m. today vs. Redlands, then plays Texas-Dallas at 10 a.m. Saturday. The Wildcats finish up at 10 a.m. Sunday vs. Concordia (Texas).

The Wildcats make their home-debut at 5 p.m. Feb. 22 vs. Pacific Lutheran.

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