NORFOLK, Neb. – The Northeast Community College baseball team has been itching to get back on the baseball diamond.
The Hawks will make their 2021 season debut when they visit Neosho County Community College at 1 p.m. Saturday for a doubleheader, followed by a doubleheader on Sunday starting at 12 p.m. in Chanute, Kan.
A talented-pitching staff mixed with a young lineup will be the main story for the Hawks and Head Baseball Coach Marcus Clapp.
“We are going to be starting at least seven freshmen this year, so we need them to step up and be ready to jump right in,” the fourth-year skipper said. “With only playing 12 non-conference games this year, they need to be ready both mentally and physically right away. I really like this group and I think we have some really good talented baseball players.”
Freshmen Zane Zielinski (Chicago, Ill.), Tyler Monroe (Lincoln, Neb.) and Kobe Greenhalgh will be a few names to watch to take control of the middle infield positions. Zielinski was a two-year starter for Lake View High School on the north side of Chicago. He also played travel baseball for Force Elite. Monroe joins the Hawks from Norris High School where he was a three-time letterwinner, while hitting .415 as a senior for the Titans. He also led his American Legion baseball team to a 28-6 record and a state championship. Greenhalgh makes the long trip across the globe from Geelong, Australia. Greenhalgh won the batting award after hitting .407 in the senior’s division for the Geelong Baycats Baseball Club. He was also a member of Team Victoria of the 18U Australian Youth Championships. Other contenders that will push for playing time include: Maximo DeLeon (Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic), Maxim Fullerton (Steamboat Springs, Colo.), Parker Dorrance (Arvada, Colo.) and Anthony Silvera Jr. (Toronto, Ontario, Canada).
Returning in the outfield will be household Nebraska names in twins Colin and Cade Lynam (Springfield, Neb.) Colin had a breakout season last year before COVID-19 quickly shut down the season. He tallied a .389 batting average and a .500 on-base percentage. Houston Fogelstrom (Omaha, Neb.) played in 12 games and had 34 at-bats, while crushing three home runs and two doubles. Cooper Whitt (Knoxville, Tenn.) also hopes to see significant playing time after seeing action in 18 games last season, while hitting .259 with three doubles.
“I only have four sophomores, so I need them to be able to bring leadership and make sure they are helping the guys to prepare to compete at a high level,” Clapp said.
Pitching has been and will continue to be the bread and butter for the Hawks.
Led by closer Alex Potter (Parker, Colo.) the Hawks return their four rotation starters in Jeremy Schneider (Lovell, Wyo.), Tanner Olmstead (Sioux Falls, S.D.), Nate Zyzda (Sioux City, Iowa) and Chris Mazzini (Parker, Colo.)
Potter, a Southeastern Louisiana University commit, was dominant in 2019. Potter sat out last season due to injury, but was the go-to pitcher for the Hawks his freshman season, guiding the Hawks to the 2019 NJCAA DII World Series. He made 26 appearances on the mound, recorded 12 saves in 45.1 innings and registered a 1.39 ERA. He also struck out 53 batters, while owning a 2-2 record.
Schneider returns for his second season after tossing 22 innings in 2019. He recorded a 2-1 record and a 2.85 ERA, while striking out 21 batters and walking just one. Olmstead started in four games for the Hawks, before the COVID-19 pandemic cut the season short. He tallied a 2-2 record in 16.2 innings, while striking out 24 batters and walking only six. Zyzda made six starts and recorded a 3-2 record in 28 innings, while tossing a complete game. Mazzini, a 6-foot-4 southpaw made five starts and tallied a 2-3 record in 15.1 innings. Matt Dreher (Blair, Neb.) was one of the top relief pitchers in the shortened season, making six appearances on the mound, while striking out 18 batters to go along with a 2.61 ERA. Preston Tenney (Parker, Colo.), Brandon Nicks (Omaha, Neb.) and Christian Carew (Parker, Colo.) will see their roles increase as the season progresses this spring.
Behind the plate, Samuel Manwarren (Overland Park, Kan.), Nick Carlson (Kearney, Neb.) and Jacob Roberts (Omaha, Neb.) will push for immediate playing time throughout the 56-game schedule.
“I think this team wants to win and has some confidence about them,” Clapp said. “I enjoy being around these guys as they are a fun group and they want to get after it.”
Assisting Clapp again this spring will be Nebraska City native, Bladen Bales who works primarily with the infielders and hitters. Landon Briscoe returns for his third season as the catching coach.
After returning from Chanute, the Hawks hit the road for a pair of games against McCook Community College and Barton Community College in Great Bend, Kan. Three days later, the Hawks will play at the home of the NJCAA DII World Series in Enid, Okla., as they take on Northern Oklahoma College-Enid at David Allen Memorial Ballpark. The Hawks open ICCAC play against Iowa Western Community College on March 17 and are slated to play their first home game on March 20 against North Iowa Area Community College in a doubleheader at 1 p.m. on March 20 at Veterans Memorial Field in Norfolk.
“I am looking forward to just playing again,” Clapp added. “These kids have had so much time away from ‘game’ competition, so just being able to get back out and play and watch these men compete and develop is what I am looking forward to the most.”