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Wicklund pumped for NCAA debut

Steve Yingling

Centenary baseball coach Mark Linden likes to say he has a team entirely comprised of Aaron Wicklunds – above average NCAA Division I players who buy into team baseball.

Of course, the original Aaron Wicklund is an unproven major college player, who has yet to hit his first curveball or run down his first line drive in the gap. But Linden is confident that the former George Whittell High three-sport star is part of the puzzle he needs to turn around last year’s 11-39 campaign.

“It takes a certain level of academic accomplishment to get into school here. Guys here (in Shreveport, La.) understand what it means to work,” Linden said. “Aaron is the type of guy who fits well into the whole scheme of things and makes your whole program better.

“He’s a legitimate Division I baseball player both physically and mentally. He’s not the type of player who’s going to go out and do something extraordinary and make other schools kick themselves because they didn’t recruit him.”

The three-time all-league baseball star at Whittell makes his NCAA Division I debut Friday when the Gents meets Southeastern Louisiana in New Orleans.

“I’m raring to go. I’ve been hearing about Division I baseball for quite awhile and I’m ready to try it out and see what it’s like and how it stacks up with California junior college baseball,” he said.

Wicklund concluded his junior college career last year at Delta (Stockton) by hitting a sizzling .361. His 24 doubles were third best in the state of California.

If all goes according to plan, maybe Linden will name one of the outfield gaps after Wicklund.

“This guy hits a lot of doubles, but the nice thing is he’s starting to drive the ball to the left-center gap. Our left-center gap is 380 feet, and he’s really taking advantage of it,” Linden said.

Known more as a sacrifice hitter as a freshman at Delta, Wicklund has become a legitimate hitting threat as a Centenary junior.

“He’s a guy that you would think less and less about bunting and more of one who will drive in a guy from first with a double,” Linden said.

Wicklund expects to hit first or second in the lineup, and Linden will use him at all three positions in the outfield.

“He’s just an average runner, but he has great instinct for the ball, he jumps well and he’s not afraid to after the ball. He catches everything that should be caught,” Linden said.

The second-year Centenary coach has also enlisted in Wicklund’s knowledge of the game and given him freedom to coach on the field.

“He’s a guy who I can say, “Aaron, I need to have this done,” and he’ll do it. He’s almost like an assistant coach at times,” Linden said. “I’ve nicknamed him ‘Mother Hen’ because we’ve got this freshman center fielder (Tommy Goforth) who has so little baseball experience it’s ridiculous. This guy had never hit off a tee before he came here. But this guy has a lot of ability and I told Aaron to be a mother hen to him and mold him.”

Wicklund has also been asked by Linden to go over game situations with his teammates.

“There’s only so many times you can explain pitch counts and outfield adjustments based on pitch counts. Aaron’s been pointing out the situations and helping the young guys learn; he’s been a great asset from that standpoint,” he said.

But Wicklund won’t be happy unless his team wins.

“Of course, everybody wants to hit over .300, but our main goal as a team is to go to the NCAA regional tournament,” Wicklund said. “I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure we have a good shot at going. If that means sitting on the bench, I’ll sit on the bench. But hopefully I’ll be playing every day.”

Wicklund should know better. When do mother hens ever have time to rest?

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