Perfect Game USA, a national baseball scouting organization, placed Webster’s baseball team at the top of their 2021 preseason rankings.
It is World Series or bust for the Webster University baseball team according to junior catcher Zach Goodman. The last time the team was there in 2019, they lost back-to-back one run games that sent them home earlier than they expected. Perfect Game USA, a national baseball scouting organization, agreed with Goodman by placing Webster as the number one team in their 2021 preseason rankings.
The Gorloks entered 2020 with the sole goal to return to, and win, the Division III World Series. Perfect Game USA had Webster atop their 2020 poll also. The team sputtered out of the gate, going 8-5 in their first 13 games, including a 15-5 loss to Rhodes College.
“We thought we were just gonna roll over teams,” Goodman said. “We started with five losses early in the season when we weren’t expecting to lose more than five games the entire year.”
The team’s 2020 campaign was shortened due to the COVID-19 outbreak that canceled all their games after March 15. Despite the struggles in 2020, Perfect Game USA was willing to give the team another chance at the top of their poll. Nick Herfordt and Brian Sakowski wrote the article on Perfect Game USA previewing the Division III baseball season.
“Webster did not play like a top team last spring,” Herfordt and Sakowski said in the article. “There is little doubt that Webster has national title caliber talent. The only question is if they can produce a national title result.”
Due to the extra season of eligibility, nearly every starter is returning for Webster besides catcher Joe Swanson. St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) first team all-conference hitters in 2019, Matt Staker and Ben Swords, both return to start on the left side of the infield. SLIAC first team all-conference pitcher Matt Mulhearn will again be at the top of the Gorlok’s rotation. Goodman will replace Swanson as the starting catcher.
“I’m gonna have big shoes to fill,” Goodman said. “[Swanson] was a great catcher and a fantastic leader.”
In 2020, Swords led the team with a .356 batting average. In the shortened 2020 season, Staker hit only .162 in the 13 games. The offense as a whole did not begin the 2020 season hitting as well as they normall do. The team hit .274 after hitting .301 in 2019 and .321 in 2018.
Kyler Kent will also return to play his fifth season with the extra year of eligibility. Kent had his best season in 2018 as a sophomore, breaking Webster’s single season hit record. Kent hit just .224 early in the 2020 season, but Goodman believes Kent was unlucky.
“His .224 average is not representative of the way [Kent] hit,” Goodman said. “I have never seen someone line out more than he did.”
Webster has been the SLIAC regular season champion for 13 consecutive seasons. In 2021, the team will only play about half of the non-conference games as normal. This means the conference games will make up a larger percentage of their schedule.