Michael Barnes connects with a pitch last year. He returns after finishing in the top-two in many statistical categories, which include batting average, hits and RBIs.
Michael Barnes connects with a pitch last year. He returns after finishing in the top-two in many statistical categories, which include batting average, hits and RBIs.

   The Ripon College Red Hawk baseball team missed out on making the Midwest Conference Tournament by one game last season.

   And there is no debate on the biggest reason why.

   “Our defense cost us games last year,” Ripon head coach Eric Cruise said. “We hit plenty well and I think we pitched well enough. It was our defense. I don’t think there’s anybody that’s on the team that will argue with you that our defense kept us from postseason play.”

   The Red Hawks committed the third-most errors in the Midwest Conference last season (84) and had the third-lowest fielding percentage (.931) out of nine teams.

   Despite the struggles, Cruise has confidence that Ripon has righted the ship going into this season.

   “I think we’ve done the right things here in the preseason to try to shore that up and we’ll see where things land,” he said.

   Not only does the Ripon coach believe the Red Hawks will be helped by experience as they graduated just one fielder (Josh Oswald) from last year’s team, but he thinks extra depth will help as well.

   “We did not have depth and so I had to play a lot of guys out of position, Josh being one of them,” Cruise said, noting other players not at familiar spots included Keegan Johnston at first base and Markesan native Hector Aguinaga at shortstop “ ... So now we have the depth that we’ve typically had.”

   He added the Red Hawks might “kick the ball around a little bit early ... but the right people are here to make the defense work.”

Read the full story, which includes information on the offense and pitching, in the March 14, 2019 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.