Baseball plans to rebuild & compete

The inexperience, injuries and inability to cope with adversity that forced the baseball team to crumple in Southland Conference play last year has been left in the past, as the it prepares for a rebuilding, but competitive season.”We’re going to meet those types of challenges in a much better way this year,” said coach John Skeeters. “I can tell you we are going to be considerably better this year than last year.”With a long list of returners on the team, Skeeters said it is mentally, emotionally and physically a more mature team that will be able to compete in the Southland Conference this season.”They’ve had the chance to play our schedule, and it’s usually better the second time around,” Skeeters said. “I can already see evidence of that.”Most of the pitching staff returned and has become older and wiser.”They’re going to cope with the pressure a lot better this year,” Skeeters said.The talent and experience of a group of junior college recruits, Jordan Tata, Daniel Stringer and Phillip Gougler, is expected to complement the returning staff.The Bearkats will also have a lot of talent behind home plate with the return of Buck Riva, a fourth-year catcher who suffered a season-ending injury in the final month of play last year. Now, he is back healthy and working hard, according to Skeeters. His hard work will land him behind home plate as the main catcher for the Bearkats and fourth in the bating lineup, Skeeters said.A major contributor to the team last year, Lou Ferrell, will return, but with more respect.”We were slow to recognize the of value of Lou last year,” Skeeters said. “This year we know what type of player he can be; he will be in the lineup most of the time.”Newcomer Corey Whitlock is creating some competition at short stop with returner Carroll Kelly. Both are extremely talented players and have been working hard to claim a spot on the field, according to Skeeters.On the batting front, Skeeters said the team has six strong hitters in the line up and is looking for three average hitters to bat at the bottom of the lineup.”The whole idea is you don’t have to get a whole lot out of one person, but you have to get a little out of several people,” Skeeters said. “And collectively it makes you better.”As the team hits the road for its first action of the season against Southwest Texas at a Corpus Christi tournament this weekend, four players will be left behind. However, they are expected to return before the Bearkats take on Texas Southern next week.”I don’t think we’re as prepared for this weekend as we’ll be. The idea is that we will become more prepared each week,” he said.And such continued preparation will be necessary for the Bearkats to compete in what Skeeters said will be a “dog fight” to claim a spot in the SLC post season tournament.”That’s an immediate goal-to get into the tournament. And then we need to improve enough to compete in it once we’re there,” Skeeters said.

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