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updated: 5/2/2016 4:59 PM

College baseball: Batavia grads Coffey, Eustace looking forward to reunion

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First place in the Big Ten Conference baseball standings will be at stake this weekend when Indiana takes on Minnesota in Minneapolis.

There is a local angle to the intriguing matchup as well.

A pair of 2014 Batavia High School graduates -- Micah Coffey and Laren Eustace -- will battle for bragging rights when the Big Ten leaders collide.

"I've had these dates (May 6-8) circled on the calendar for a while," said Coffey, a sophomore starter at Minnesota.

"It will be fun to see (Eustace) again. I really look forward to playing them."

Due to the Big Ten scheduling format, Indiana and Minnesota did not face each other during the regular season a year ago.

It makes this weekend's 3-game series that much more special.

"It will be worth the wait," said Coffey.

Eustace, a sophomore starter at Indiana, can't wait to see his friend and former teammate -- even if it is from the opposing dugout.

"We have dinner reservations for Friday night after the game," said Eustace. "We're both very competitive by nature and we joke about it but we want the best for each other."

Eustace, who has started 23 games primarily in center field for the Hoosiers (26-16, 11-4), will bring a .256 batting average into the weekend.

He has battled through a nagging injury (strained hamstring) for the past couple months.

"I was out for 2 ½ weeks and then I came back and was starting to get into a good rhythm when I tweaked my hamstring again," said Eustace.

"The second time it happened was against Purdue after a 2 ½-hour rain delay. It was like starting all over again."

Eustace, one of the fastest players in the Big Ten, admittedly has had to adjust mentally as well as physically to the injury.

"Every time I felt like it (hamstring) was 100 percent, the last thing I had to overcome was the psychological aspect," said Eustace.

"It has been a little frustrating because I have never really been injured before. But I've kept a positive attitude throughout and have received a lot of support from my teammates."

Eustace owns a .378 slugging percentage and .376 on-base percentage this season with 2 home runs, 3 doubles, a triple and 11 RBI along with 6 stolen bases in 8 attempts.

Coffey, meanwhile, has started a team-high 39 of 40 games for the Golden Gophers (27-13, 11-3) and carries a .299 batting average into a 2-game nonconference home series with Kansas Tuesday and Wednesday.

The third baseman has a .442 slugging percentage and .381 on-base percentage with 3 home runs, 8 doubles, 2 triples and 29 RBI (second on the team).

Last Sunday, Coffey went 3 for 5 with a home run, 2 doubles and a career-high 4 RBI during Minnesota's 14-6 victory over Illinois in Champaign.

"It's fun getting to play every day again," said Coffey, who was a part-time starter as a freshman.

"Playing college baseball is everything I hoped for and more. This is the closest team I've been on. We have all found a cause worth fighting for."

Both players have found things challenging at the highest collegiate level.

"All of the guys here were stars in high school," said Coffey, a 3-sport standout himself at Batavia (football, basketball, baseball). "The challenge is getting everybody to buy into a role.

"Being a second-year guy, I'm more comfortable and I have been able to get into a good rhythm."

Eustace has made a few adjustments as well.

"Sometimes, it takes a while to realize you belong," said Eustace. "It's different from a confidence aspect.

"This year, I'm not the new guy anymore. I've got more of a feel for things."

Baseball is known as a game of failure. Even the best hitters make outs 7 of every 10 trips to the plate.

Learning how to handle occasional batting slumps is all part of the maturation process.

"You have to find a way to ride a flat line," said Coffey. "Not too high when things are going well and not too low when you're struggling a bit."

"I have learned so much about the intricacies of the game the last two years," said Eustace. "I've also put in a lot of work."

At Batavia, Coffey and Eustace helped lead the Bulldogs to Upstate Eight Conference River Division and Class 4A regional titles as seniors.

The dynamic duo was instrumental in Batavia's 32-4-1 record in 2014.

Both guys continue to stay in tune with Batavia's baseball program and recently learned of head coach Matt Holm stepping down after this season.

"Coach Holm has had a tremendous impact on the program," said Coffey, who quarterbacked Batavia to the Class 6A state football title in 2013. "I'm sure he'll still be around from time to time.

"(Assistant coach) Alex Beckmann is more than prepared to take over the program."

"Coach Holm has been a great mentor for me," said Eustace. "I wish him nothing but the best."

This weekend might not be the last reunion between the former teammates this month.

The two teams could meet again in the Big Ten Conference tournament May 25-29 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.

Craig Brueske can be reached at

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