After a victorious season in 2021, with the Mountain Lions making the NCAA Regional Championships, UCCS baseball hopes to continue their winning ways in 2022.
The Mountain Lions, backed by dominant hitting and consistent run-scoring games, finished with a 30-13 record, good enough to achieve third in the RMAC, only trailing Colorado Mesa and MSU Denver.
In 2021, the Mountain Lions’ 30-13 record was their best mark in program history, and their fifth consecutive winning season.
“Our goal is just getting back out on the field, going after the RMAC championship again,” said head coach Dave Hajek. “We had a great year last season, we finished strong, we have a taste of winning now, and now we’re just gonna go out and try and win.”
UCCS will be losing a few key pieces on the offensive side of the field, with senior infielder Jake Anderson, graduate student infielder Matt McDermott and junior outfielder Evan Richards not on the roster for 2022.
Anderson, McDermott and Richards were each among the top three in many important statistics: at-bats, RBIs, hits and total bases. Richards and Anderson led the Mountain Lions in home runs as well.
These departures leave more room for up-and-coming athletes to make their marks, such as senior infielder Jaeden Hegmann, senior outfielder Aaron Faragallah and redshirt junior infielder Kiichi Sato, all of whom recorded inspiring numbers from the plate in 2021.
On the mound, the pitching core for UCCS was terrific in closing out games, with a league-leading 15 saves on a 5.97 earned run average, good enough for third in the RMAC.
Once again, though, the Mountain Lions’ top relievers in 2021 will not be a part of the team, with redshirt junior Hayden Salverada and senior Nate Jenkins off the roster this season.
This opens the way for redshirt junior JJ Rytz to get more appearances, after only allowing five earned runs all season en route to a 2-1 record in eligible games.
Hajek, however, is not worried about these missing pieces, and is more focused on creating the best opportunity for this team to succeed.
“It’s just a similar routine that we do every year, get out on the field and practice the fundamentals,” Hajek said, referring to his team’s work ethic. The Mountain Lions worked hard on the bases, leading the RMAC in stolen bases with 63, only being caught nine times.
“There’s no secret formula, we’re just teaching the guys how to play [and carry] the game the right way, and be ready to compete every weekend,” he said.
This upcoming season will be Hajek’s sixth season with UCCS. Hajek has been a part of every single winning season in program history, dating back to 2017.
Hajek’s attitude toward himself and his team is to be “steady,” with an emphasis on running practices and games with one goal in mind: improving.
“My expectations for myself are to show up and be a [steady] influence for the guys on a daily basis. Try not to be too hard or too easy. They’re gonna get out there and compete, I just need to be present and ready to give them the information they need to succeed,” Hajek said.
The Mountain Lions kick off their 2022 campaign with a four-game series against Cal Poly Pomona beginning on Feb. 4. This series leads off a nine-game road trip that ends with a single game against the CSU Pueblo Thunderwolves.
RMAC play doesn’t officially begin until March 11, where UCCS will attempt to start their season in the winning column against New Mexico Highlands, a team that was second worst in the league from conference standings alone.