1997 Baseball Outlook

Heading into his third season at Hartford, head coach Jim Bretz has high expectations for the Hawks. He is looking to improve upon last year's sixth-place conference mark. Although the Hawks ended the season with an 18-30-1 record, they played their best baseball during the North Atlantic Conference Tournament, where they finished third.

The Hawks are planning to return to the America East (formerly the NAC) Tournament again this season with hopes of winning the championship. "Our goal is not to get into the tournament, our goal is to win the championship," said Bretz.

Last season, the team suffered due to injuries. The squad was without the services of few key pitchers, and the offense lacked a consistent number two hitter. This year, however, the off-season strength and conditioning program has produced a more focused, healthy and athletic team.

Offensively, the Hawks are as solid as any team in the league. They batted .290 last season and will likely hover around the .300 plateau this year. Bretz likes the way the order is built around a solid blend of power and speed. "Offensively, I think we can match up with anybody in the league. Our two through seven hitters are going to generate a lot of runs, and I think they are as good as anybody in the league," said Bretz.

The pitching, a team weakness last year because of nagging injuries, could be a strength this season if the right people step up. "our top two guys in the rotation will chalk up a lot of innings, and I think they're as good as any of the other guys in the league," said Bretz.

Bretz wants the team to play consistent baseball throughout the entire season, something it had a hard time doing in 1996. For the Hawks to win, the pitching and the hitting need to complement each other. "We can not have our guys pitching well and our offense leaving men on base," said Bretz.

Hartford's game plan for the year is to get players on base early, use the running game, and let the middle of the order drive them in. If the Hawks can jump out to an early lead, then their defense will keep them in the game.

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