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March 3, 2008

Young Engineers baseball team smiling after spring trip

TERRE HAUTE — Having begun his 19th season as Rose-Hulman’s baseball coach, Jeff Jenkins wasn’t sure what to think of his young team when it traveled to Florida for its annual spring trip last month.

But when the Engineers scored 79 runs — including a school-record-tying 15 in one inning against St. Vincent College on Feb. 25 — in compiling a 6-3 record, he came back with a smile and a positive opinion.

“We had so many question marks going into it,” Jenkins said after Saturday’s trip-ending 9-2 victory over York College. “We didn’t know what to expect.”

Rose, which finished 21-18 overall and 12-10 in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference last season, will make its 2008 home debut Saturday. Games are scheduled against Illinois Wesleyan (11 a.m.) and University of Chicago (4 p.m.) at Art Nehf Field.

Missing will be 10 graduating seniors and one graduate student from last season.

Leading the offense so far has been sophomore catcher/designated hitter Keenan Long, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound transfer from Northwestern. He’s batting .486 with two home runs, three doubles, 15 runs batted in and 13 runs scored while playing errorless defense.

“He’s an intense competitor,” Jenkins said of Long. “He’s got good power. He’s jumped in and really taken off.”

Whenever Long starts at DH, Jenkins doesn’t hesitate to use senior Alex Decker (.375) behind the plate.

“We’re really happy with our catching,” the Engineers’ coach said. “We thought it could be a strength and it has been.”

Continuing around the infield, Jenkins is rotating left-handed Nathaniel Miles, a sophomore, and right-handed Reed Eason, a freshman and Rose-Hulman football player in the fall, at first base. Miles is hitting .385 and Eason .333.

“They both have a little pop in their bat,” Jenkins mentioned.

Junior Andrew Pinkstaff (.417) was scheduled to play often at second base, but Jenkins said he’s probably out for the season after injuring his knee while sliding home Friday. Sophomore Tim Tepe (.343, three homers, 17 RBIs) will continue to see plenty of action in the infield, probably more at second base now that Pinkstaff is unavailable.

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