By Trent Hinton, York (Neb.) Sports Information Director
YORK, Neb. - On the onset, Friday’s double header with Waldorf College looked nothing like a spring home opener baseball match-up. Sure it was the third official day of spring, but players sweeping the snow off the field in 26 degrees is not what head coach Nick Harlan had in mind to get the season underway at Levitt Field. Sometimes you have to play with the hand you’re dealt and make the most of it. That’s exactly what the York College Boys of Summer did for coach Harlan as he picked up win number 300 in subfreezing temps.
For No. 299, it couldn’t have begun in more dramatic fashion. Aaron Conyers, junior left handed pitcher from Cameron Park, Calif., quickly retired the first three batters of Waldorf with a flyout and two of his ten strikeouts on the afternoon. No time was wasted by York’s first at bat, Josh Nuyten, a senior from Pleasant Hill, Calif. The second pitch thrown by Waldorf’s starting pitcher was exactly what Nuyten was looking for as he jacked it over the left field fence for the first score of the game.
York outhit Waldorf 13-4 in game one including a 3-run homer in the 4th by Chris Bottini, junior DH from Petaluma, Calif. As the starting pitcher, Conyers was on his game, going six strong innings and allowing only three hits and striking out 10 batters in the 11-1 victory.
In the second game, MCAC Pitcher of the Week, Tyler Molder, a junior from Reno, Nev., threw a complete game for the Panthers, allowing only two hits on the day. Despite the frigid temps, the bats remained hot for YC as the team combined for a .320 batting average compared to .394 in the first game. Alec Abend, senior from Carmel, Calif., and MCAC Player of the Week, hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the 3rd to give York a 4-0 lead. The Panther offense added runs in the 5th and 6th innings to give Molder the 6-0 win, his third of the season, and coach Harlan his 300 career victory.
In response to the playing conditions, Harlan tweeted after the games: "What a privilege it is to coach a team that prepares the same way every day regardless of their circumstances. Great team... very proud of them!" He added another posting for those in attendance at Levitt Stadium: "Huge thank you to all the fans that came out to support us today. Clearly the best fans in the NAIA!"
Harlan is in his ninth season as head coach for his alma mater. Along with associate head coach Brian Walth, the YC baseball program has averaged 35 wins per year in the last decade, while amassing an overall record of 300–166 under the current coaching staff. Harlan is a two-time MCAC Conference Coach of the Year. The Panthers are currently 20-7 on the season and lead the conference at 6-0.
"I've been blessed with great players and a great assistant coach in Brian Walth. The consistency of our success wouldn't be possible without that," Harlan says.
"As a team, we are always trying to improve. We're trying to keep getting better every day." Beyond the daily improvement, Harlan says his goal for the year is to make it to the College World Series.
The four-game series with conference opponent Central Christian has been moved up a day to Thursday and Friday at Levitt Stadium. Both doubleheaders begin at 1:00 p.m.