Shimkus breaks hitting record: Baseball has successful spring trip to Florida

The Norwich University baseball team spent spring break playing one of America’s favorite pastimes, the way it was meant to be: outside in the beautiful sun. The team went to Vero Beach, Fla., the former spring training home of the Los Angeles Dodgers, where NU participated in six ball games.

The trip did not go as well as the team would have liked, as they only proved victorious in one of their five games. Overall, the team enjoyed the trip, especially as one Cadet paved his way into the record books. Players and coaches saw progress that they will continue to work on.

“I was somewhat pleased. We played pretty well at the beginning of the week,” said John Rhoades, the team’s head coach. “We played pretty well against Northwestern, our first win of the season.”

“Our second day outdoors we went up against a team that had already played 12 games, so of course we’re not going to be up to speed,” said Dustin Shimkus, a senior outfielder and team captain from Collinsville, Ill., “The important thing is taking the lessons we learned and the progress we made and applying them to games up here where we’re going to be much more competitive and be just as prepared and oiled, if you will, as the teams we’re playing.”

There has been improvement in the squad from last season with new and improved methods, said senior pitcher, Sam Philbrook, from Rochester, Mass., who serves as a co-captain with Shimkus. “As a team, we showed our competitors that we had a new team, new look and new attitude, the motto we have been living by since the fall,” he said.

“This spring training we had more hits per game, got on base more and in some games, we were able to try out new methods and plays we had been working on all off-season. This season we have a tremendous amount of new and old talent,” Philbrook said.

Rhoades agreed with his captain, pointing out that the new players Philbrook referred to need to contribute. “There are a lot of young guys that are going to need to step up. Now that we’re back up north, these games are the ones that really mean a lot because of conference play,” Rhoades said.

Since their spring break, the team can boast that not only is their captain the Regimental Commander for the Corps of Cadets, but he is one of the greatest hitters in Norwich history, if not NCAA Division III history. Shimkus is now Norwich’s all-time leader in hits, surpassing Rob Knox’s mark of 112 from 2010.

Shimkus currently has 114 hits and counting. “I laced a fast ball down the left field line for a double. The biggest feeling was just being relieved,” he said. “I knew I was close to the record, I knew how many hits I needed, and so I just wanted to get it out of the way. I already hold the school record for doubles, and I’m supposedly close to the school record in RBIs and home runs.”

Shimkus will likely achieve the marks as the season progresses. Shimkus only has a handful of doubles until he is the NCAA Division III all-time leader in that category, Philbrook said.

Having a team leader achieve such a tremendous accomplishment can really lift the team and propel them in the right direction. According to the captains, there is a lot of work ahead but also a lot to look forward to.

“If you’re not constantly improving, then you’re not playing to win. As a team we need to learn to control the things we can control. We need to realize that the program as well as the game is older than us,” Philbrook said. “We have a tremendous amount of talent; it’s just how do we capitalize? The greatest thing about baseball is there are no timer and no running the clock out.”

With all their talent and leadership, the team looks to be more competitive than recent years. Their next game against Daniel Webster has been moved to March 28 due to the recent snow.

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