SHOALHAVEN Mariner Kai Meuronen always knew chasing his baseball dream in the United States was going to be challenging but nothing could have prepared him for this season's curveballs.
Firstly it marked the 22-year-old's first at Iowa's Waldorf University, after two successful seasons at Grays Harbour.
"I loved my two years at Grays Harbor and wouldn't change them for the world," Meuronen said.
"While we didn't do the best on the baseball field, I'll be forever grateful for the friends and experiences I made in Washington.
"One thing that coach Bruner always preached at GHC was the importance of work ethic, on and off the baseball field.
"Obviously coming from Australia, which has a little more relaxed baseball scene, he really helped me take a passion into developing myself as a pitcher."
As Grays Harbour is only a two-year school, Meuronen needed to find a new college if he was going to continue living out his dream.
"I actually had some past teammates from GHC who had transferred to Waldorf and were itching to try and get me there," he said.
"I initially had a call with coach Schuermann which ended up going for more than two hours - there was an instant connection.
"I went on a campus visit a few weeks later and the rest is history."
Meuronen then started his career with the Warriors at the end of 2019.
"Like any move, it did have its challenges - luckily for me, I did have some connections over there which made the transition easier.
"The biggest change was obviously the weather which in Iowa can get quite cold, dropping to -20 degrees celsius sometimes in winter."
Unfortunately for Meuronen, his junior year didn't start off as well as he had hoped.
"We, unfortunately, got off to a really slow start," he said.
"We had huge expectations on ourselves after a very successful 2019 season and it got to us, as we started our season 1-7 (the first win coming against Mount Marty College on February 17).
"We eventually began to find our groove before the season got cut short - we ended up finishing 7-15.
"The whole group was disappointed to get the season cut short, as we didn't really get a chance to show what we were really made of.
"But I am more than happy with the group of guys we had this year and all the hard work we put in together."
Much like his side, Meuronen admits he didn't have his strongest season to date on the mound.
"Unfortunately, I dealt with the injury bug early on in the year when I strained a flexor in my throwing elbow," Meuronen, who threw 3.1 innings with four strikeouts, said.
"This put me a little bit behind everyone else and took a while to get going.
"It is by no means an excuse for my performance, as I know I didn't have the best year on the mound.
"In saying that, I did improve as a player since my arrival at Waldorf.
"GHC was a great way to get your foot in the door to college baseball, but Waldorf is next level.
"I've improved across the board in almost every aspect, from strength to throwing velocity and general athleticism - I'm excited to keep developing those in the future."
As Meuronen alluded to, his final game of the season was on March 12, nearly two months shorter than expected, due to the coronavirus epidemic.
"We initially took notice of it [coronavirus] just before we left for our spring break trip to Arizona at the beginning of March," he said.
"As the virus began to spread, we saw on Twitter that some of the other NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) conferences were starting to suspend or cancel their seasons.
"We found out our season was getting cancelled two days after we got back, closely followed by the news that all our classes would be getting moved online.
"After talking with my parents, we thought it would be best for me to come home before things got too serious and I flew home two days later."
Although Waldorf is located in Forest City, which has a population of 4000 people, it was just starting to be affected by COVID-19 when Meuronen left.
"Locally we didn't really see too much of the hysteria created by the outbreak," he said.
"Obviously social media was covered with it so it couldn't really be avoided.
"Just before I left though, we went grocery shopping in Walmart, about 25 minutes down the road in Mason City and the shelves were stripped of everything."
While disappointed his junior year got cut short, Meuronen intends to use his time back in Canberra to his advantage.
"One perk of having the season cancelled is I have a five-month off-season to get prepared for my senior year," Meuronen, who is studying a bachelor of sports management, said.
"I plan to keep working with my coach Will Russel here in Canberra while also spending another year playing with the Shoalhaven Mariners.
"While doing both of these, I'll be trying to incorporate instructions given to me from my college coaches, which are based around consistency.
"Consistency in mechanics, delivery, practice, all the important stuff.
"Another thing we talked about is improving on the mental side of things - I found this year I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to succeed and it's just a matter of getting back to relaxing and enjoying the game."
When he does return to the US for his senior year, Meuronen has clear goals he wants to accomplish.
"I really want to work on earning a spot in the starting rotation for the spring," he said.
"I'm more comfortable starting than relieving but at the end of the day it's all about helping the team win games."