After almost two months of play, CRU baseball is tied for first place in the ASC West. Led by head Coach Micah Wells, the team has a good blend of rookies and seasoned players. Even with the loss of a few starters, Sophomroe Chris Joshlin and Sophomore Ryan Swindell, they progressively move forward.
“I’m extremely pleased at where we are,” Wells said. “We’ve had some injuries, but we’ve had guys that have stepped right up into those spots.”
The freshmen have come through in a big way and have made a positive impact.
Junior first baseman Doak Flemming said, “Josh Frederick, Seth Lynn, Ethan Henderson and Sam VanHoozer contribute to our success in ways that we were not anticipating.”
Junior right fielder Joseph Villegas said, “We have quite a few new faces. I can remember when we had almost six freshmen in the line-up one game. But I think the mix of rookies and veterans make for good chemistry.”
Unlike other programs, baseball teams play a three game series. They usually play one game on Friday that goes for nine innings and a double header on Saturday.
This can be both a gift and a curse. If they lose the first game on Saturday, they don’t have time to sulk. Instead, they have to bounce back and redeem themselves 20 minutes later with the second game.
Team unity has been important this year, and according to Wells, it’s the team’s greatest asset.
“Some days we gotta go out and win it with defense, and some days we gotta score runs. But their ability to pull together and do whatever they have to do to win a baseball game is their greatest strength.”
The team will play close to 40 games this season, 21 of which will be in conference. They share a similar goal of making the play-offs and winning a conference championship with 14 other teams. So instead of focusing on wins and losses, Wells takes a different approach.
“Our goal is just to be the best team we can be,’’ he said. “I challenge our guys to come out every day and perform at the top of their ability.”
If they continue to concentrate on that, the rest will follow.
The Cru’s pitching has been top notch this season, as well as team defense. These two things have improved greatly from last year.
Pitcher Jared Hopper, who performed well as a freshman, has taken his game to the next level as a sophomore.
“He’s made a dramatic improvement,” Wells said. “With a year under his belt, he is stronger and more prepared.”
Then there is freshmen Sam VanHoozer from Salado, Texas, who has pitched well in the closing innings.
Flemming said, “When that kid comes out of the bullpen in the eighth or ninth inning, I have full faith in him to get the job done.”
This year the team has taken a different strategy to scoring runs.
Last season, they hit several home runs and a lot of doubles. They still score about the same number, but they’re doing it differently. The team’s speed has improved, and they are getting on and stealing more bases than before.
“Our team average is a little bit higher than it was last year,” Wells said. “Instead of standing there and hitting home runs or hitting doubles, we’re manufacturing a few more runs and getting base hits.”
They still have power hitters in the line-up who can get the job done, but this year they are a well-rounded team with the ability to win in different ways.
They have two home games against Schreiner University upcoming this weekend, followed by a road trip to take on Trinity University and Concordia.
Flemming said, “for us to continue to be successful, we have to play solid defense, and our pitchers must keep up the stellar job on the mound. If we do those things, we will win.”