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Small colleges: New coach but same winning ways for Aurora baseball

Winning is practically a way of life for Aurora University’s baseball team, a norm that Lane Stahl
accepts happily in his first season as the Spartans’ head coach.

Stahl served as pitching coach under Shaun Neitzel the last three seasons, and in each year the Spartans won the Northern Athletics Conference tournament and appeared in the NCAA Division III tournament. Last season, they set a victory record, going 38-10 and winning both the NAC regular-season and tournament titles.

After 2012, Neitzel resigned as coach and became the school’s dean of student life. So far this season, Stahl has Aurora (9-6, 3-1) tied with Benedictine atop the NAC standings.

“Shaun did a great job of keeping all the staff involved in how things run from day to day, so it’s kind of a seamless transition in that regard,” Stahl said. “Talent-wise, we’ve always had the opportunity to have talented kids, and that always makes the transition that much easier.”

The Spartans lost seven players from last year’s lineup, so Stahl wasn’t sure what to expect on offense. Carlos Olavarria has been a leader in the first 15 games, hitting .424 with 10 doubles, while Ryan McMahon is hitting .341. Corey Walden has been the power leader with five home runs and 18 RBI to go with his .317 average. That includes a two-homer, six-RBI game in a 12-10 victory that opened a doubleheader split with Benedictine on Monday,

Stahl said pitching has been a strength, and Aurora has posted a 3.29 team ERA. “Brad Warneke
(2-0, 2.08) and, Eric Palmer (1-1, 2.45) have thrown the ball well,” he said. “Tyler Finley (0.82) is a freshman and has really thrown the ball well, and so have the seniors, Luke Gilbertson (no runs in eight innings), Tom Osmanski (2-1, 0.77) and Kevin Day (1-0, 2.93).

Can the Spartans repeat?

“Our expectations as a program are always to aim high,” Stahl said. “To be able to repeat the kind of season we had last year; that was a great year. Those years don’t always come easy.”

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