It might be chilly outside, but the bats have been hot for the William Jessup University baseball team in Lincoln. It's early in the season, but the small college team is making some noise on a national level.
For people who haven't been to a WJU baseball game, first-year head coach Jake McKinley promises "a lot of loud pings and a lot of balls getting hit well."
But, saying the Warriors baseball team is hitting the ball well this season would be an understatement. In their first 24 games of the season, they have recorded 36 home runs, the most in all of college baseball.
"I mean, if you would've told me that would be the case before the season started, I probably would have called you crazy," said McKinley. "We try to teach our players to do damage every time they swing the bat."
No one has done more damage than redshirt junior outfielder Austen Swift, who transferred from Cal Berkeley. Swift's eight long balls leads the nation across all levels of college baseball, too.
"I'm lucky and I'm fortunate that I've been able to do it," said Swift. "Here's hoping that we can keep it going."
McKinley, a Placerville native and former assistant baseball coach at Sacramento State, is hoping his team can keep it going, too. This weekend the Warriors host his former team, Menlo College, for a pair of games at McBean Park.
"I think it's going to be a little weird at some point seeing the team I used to coach in the other dugout," McKinley added. "I'm happy for the guys at Menlo, they're still having success, but our objective is to do everything in our power to beat them this weekend."
Last year's 10 wins was a record for the William Jessup baseball program, which is now in its fourth season.
At 19-5, McKinley is just one win away from doubling that wins total. However, he has more in mind for the program down the line.
"For the long term, goals of the program is that it becomes the best place in the country to go play small college baseball," McKinley said.
For Swift, William Jessup was the best option to develop his game even though the Toronto native was drafted by the Oakland A's in 2014. He's expected to be drafted again in June along with a handful of his WJU teammates.
If the team's offensive numbers aren't the major contributor to its success, then the players' buy-in to McKinley's plan is. Even though the players come from all across North America, their chemistry off the field is helping them produce on it.
"The fire in this team, you can expect that every single time." said Swift. "We play with a lot of passion, a lot of heart, so it's really exciting. Just keep watching, this team is going to do some special things."
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