The Decaturian is Millikin's student-run newspaper. The opinions reflected may not be those of Millikin as an institution.

The Decaturian

The Decaturian is Millikin's student-run newspaper. The opinions reflected may not be those of Millikin as an institution.

The Decaturian

The Decaturian is Millikin's student-run newspaper. The opinions reflected may not be those of Millikin as an institution.

The Decaturian

Millikin Baseball Unbothered by “Outside Noise”

Millikin+Baseball+Unbothered+by+Outside+Noise

Millikin’s baseball team is not shying away from taking the spotlight. 

The team has been picked to win the CCIW conference this year, a feat that they have been so close to achieving in the past few seasons, but unable to achieve since 2021. 

However, this season is different. The players know it, and the coaches know it.  

With eleven seniors, three graduate students, a Rawlings Gold Glove Winner, a former CCIW Coach of the Year, and several players who were on the 2021 CCIW Championship winning team, this group has been through it all. The team is a unique blend of experience and youth, with several underclassmen already contributing in big ways. 

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Head coach Brandon Townsend recognizes that his players can achieve something special. The recognition that the team has received already is welcome, but Townsend understands that it means nothing without execution. 

“It doesn’t affect the mentality or strategy moving forward,” he said. “It’s just like we also received votes in the top 25 rankings. That to me is outside noise, and you hope outside noise doesn’t affect the locker room. It puts a smile on your face, and makes you feel good, but you have to go out and play the games.” 

The open to the season was not without adversity. The team chose to face great competition to begin the year, a choice that paid off greatly, although it cannot be seen in Millikin’s record quite yet. 

The team’s opening schedule in Birmingham, Alabama, was one of the most difficult in the country, going head-to-head with twelve seed Birmingham Southern College, five seed East Texas Baptist University, and six seed University of Lynchburg, winner of last year’s national championship. 

Although the team started the season 0-3 after their trip to Birmingham, the record does not speak for the team’s experience. All three games against were decided by two runs or less, with many of the games being won or lost by one at-bat. Struggles like these are helpful in the process of creating a championship-caliber team, which Townsend’s roster is poised to be. 

On their second trip to Conway, Arkansas, the team found their stride, winning all three of their games against Dominican University and Hendrix College, bringing their record to 3-3. 

Junior Andy Niebrugge recognizes that the progress made during the two trips could be a turning point for the team.  

“During the first weekend, we ended up on the wrong side of things,” Niebrugge said. “It was good to see that we could compete with those tough teams, but we could have very easily come out on top of all three of those games. It gave us a lot of confidence going into the next weekend.” 

Being on the wrong side of things in sports is not easy. However, struggles help prepare teams for adversity. When adversity comes, the team that can stay level-headed will win. During the second weekend trip, that level-headed team was Millikin. 

“We seemed to be able to get the big hits when we needed them and string base hits together,” Niebrugge said. “It was great to see us put a pretty good hurting on some good teams that we played. In our second game, we saw some good pitching and we were able to put up three or four runs on them early, which showed that we can hang with some solid competition this year.” 

Kyle Gibson’s Gold Glove

Millikin knows that it can hold its own against the elite teams in the nation, and the last two weekends have proven that. The roster has several players who have accomplished very impressive accolades. Perhaps the most impressive personal accolade was junior Kyle Gibson’s Rawlings Gold Glove that he won last year.

Gold Gloves are awarded to the best defensive player at each position, meaning only nine total are handed out. Gibson won the Gold Glove for his impressive play at third base while only recording two errors, an extremely impressive feat considering third base one of the most difficult infield positions to play.  

However, Gibson is not letting the prestigious award distract him from a conference championship this year. 

“It’s cool to have, and it’s cool to know about, but it’s in the past,” Gibson said. “I’m more focused on this year, because we can be really, really good. I want to do my best to help the team and get the team to where it needs to be. I just need to focus on doing my part.” 

Gibson attributes this success to the bond that the team has been able to form, especially because of the seniors on the team. 

“We are senior heavy, veteran heavy,” he said. “In the infield alone, we have guys who have been playing together for three years. We feel such a strong bond, and it really helps us. You don’t really see that from the outside, but I believe that this is one of the closest teams that we’ve had. It makes the season more exciting.” 

Millikin’s shortstop, Liam McGill, is one of the close members of the group that Gibson mentioned. Mcgill has many impressive accomplishments himself, having set the school record for stolen bases in a season, with 43 stolen bases, an average of a steal per game. 

He knows that the team is veteran heavy and understands that winning conference would be a great way to finish the careers of the seniors in the right way. 

“We’re doing this more for the seniors than anything,” McGill said. “It’s for the guys who are ahead of us because there’s so many of them. They deserve it more than we deserve it.” 

McGill understands the role that the seniors have played in helping the underclassmen land on their feet during their transition to college baseball. This is one of the most complete and deep rosters that Millikin Baseball has had in a long time, and this is due to the players completely buying in to the success of the program. 

“There’s a couple of new guys here and there,” McGill said. “But for the most part we’ve all been together for a while. We’ve got a lot more pitching depth this year than we have had in years past. Everybody on the team has been on and around the field a lot.” 

This year is going to be special. Talk to one of the players. You can hear it in their voices, see it in their eyes. Something great is about to happen at Workman Family Baseball Field. 

“Come out and support,” Gibson said. “Seeing a lot of people helps out a lot. It makes us want to win even more.” 

Millikin is in action in Decatur for the first time this season as Coe College visits for a weekend home opening series, with two games on Saturday and one game on Sunday. Come out to Workman Family Field on both Saturday and Sunday for a chance to watch the Big Blue! 

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About the Contributor
Kemper Koslofski, Editor-in-Chief
Kemper Koslofski serves as the current Editor-in-Chief for the Decaturian. Born and raised in Decatur, he is very passionate about journalism and the opportunities that it can provide its writers and readers. Kemper also serves as a Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) leader on campus. Editor-in-Chief: January 2023-Present Sports Editor: March 2023-December 2023

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    Marv hughesFeb 28, 2024 at 7:53 pm

    Very good, enjoyed the article…poppy h

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