UW-Eau Claire baseball building from the ground up in program’s second season

Blugolds getting young roster acclimated as they prep for conference play

Sam Janssen (He/Him)

More stories from Sam Janssen (He/Him)



Charley Griffin, a third-year pitcher, got the start on the mound for the Blugolds in game two against Augustana.

Year two of the UW-Eau Claire men’s baseball team is underway, and as the team prepares for conference play in less than two weeks, head coach Charles Bolden said they started the season with better talent but will still have a “learning curve” due to lack of experience.

Bolden said there are only nine returners from last season on this year’s 39-man roster, which he described as “almost a new overhaul.”

In the program’s first season last year, they fielded a roster of mostly first and second-year players, which is the case this season as well, as there are only four upperclassmen on the roster.

Bolden said it will take a while for all the young players to get acclimated to the collegiate level and he is learning more about his players every day on the field.

“It’s a process,” Bolden said. “It’s learning every day to understand the strengths and weaknesses of our team as well as them as individuals and what they can do to contribute to what we’re doing.”

He said they are evaluating the players as a coaching staff by putting them in positions in games to have opportunities and seeing who takes advantage.

“We try to create a culture here that’s really competitive and constantly making guys feel like their work is valued and appreciated every day,” Bolden said.

According to Bolden, a huge part of evaluating the players is figuring out who can “slow the game down” and handle the pressure in the moment.

“Nerves are a good thing, but knowing how to control the nerves, that’s a skill and that’s the difference-maker,” Bolden said.

Cole Hinkel, a first-year pitcher, said one of the reasons he chose UW-Eau Claire was the opportunity to be a part of building the legacy of a new program, along with the passion of the coaches.

He said he thinks the team will continue to get better as the season goes on and they gain the experience of playing more games.

“I feel like since we have a lot of new guys everyone’s feeling those jitters out and we’re starting to come together, so it’s very exciting so far,” Hinkel said.

In their first five non-conference games so far this season, the team holds a 2-3 record, most recently losing both games of a doubleheader to Augustana College in Moline, Ill.

They began their season with two wins on March 5 against Carroll College and Illinois Tech in Normal, Ill.

Bolden said the lopsided scores in a few of their losses did not reflect how well they played, like their 10-2 loss to Carleton College and their 11-6 loss in game two against Augustana.

“The score is just not reflective at all of how the games are going,” Bolden said. “We outplayed Augustana, a team that won 30 games last year.”

He said part of this was just due to bad luck, like giving up three hits that never left the infield or touched dirt in game two against Augustana.

Their young team is learning in these early stages of the season how to deal with success and failure on the field, he said.

“With such a young team, you’re constantly trying to change the mindset and get them to stay with it and understand that it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Bolden said.

Hinkel said playing on such a young team is a huge difference for everyone from high school when generally the juniors and seniors got the most playing time and everyone had to work their way up.

He said the opportunity for everyone to come in and get playing time right away has been a unique opportunity and created an exciting, competitive environment every day in practice.

“All our practices are really competitive,” Hinkel said. “Everybody has that in the back of their head that we all have to be ready to play at some point.”

He said with almost the whole team being new players and coming from different places, everyone brings a unique perspective and skillset which they can use to their advantage.

They are still continuing to grow as a team but they already have a strong rapport with each other which is an important key to success on the field, he said.

“We have really great team chemistry and I think that’s one of our strongest aspects,” Hinkel said.

The Blugolds return to the field on Sunday, March 20 in Auburndale, Fl against Colby College.

They will open conference play on Saturday, March 26 on the road against UW-Oshkosh.

Janssen can be reached at [email protected].