Baseball, softball spring season is underway
By Cody Weems
Both the Crusader baseball and softball teams begin play this month, and with the start of the season comes the hope and excitement that each new year brings.
The biggest story concerning the baseball team is the return of Head Coach Ben Shipp to the dugout.
Shipp coached the team from 1986 to 1996 before becoming the university’s athletic director.
Shipp said that returning to coaching has been an invigorating experience.
“It has been so much fun,” Shipp said. “I think everybody who coaches baseball will tell you baseball players are so much fun to be around, and I had forgotten that.”
Freshman outfielder and accounting major Chase Burrow thinks Shipp has brought a new energy to the team.
“I think it’s been a positive change,” Burrow said. “He’s made us have a desire and a work ethic to try and change this program around.”
The team will have to deal with a lack of experience in the lineup, as only three starting position players return from last year’s team that finished with a record of 21-17. However, Shipp believes that solid production from his pitching staff will be a strength.
“One thing we’ve really been pleased with is the depth of our pitching staff,” Shipp said. “We really feel good about both the quality and the quantity of our staff and the amount of experience that they bring.”
Shipp wants to play fundamental baseball this season while building the program for the future.
“I’m hoping that at the end of the year, we can look back and say that we’ve energized this group of guys, their love of the game and their love of the university.”
The baseball team will face Hendrix College for a three-game series this weekend.
The softball team has high expectations for the season after being picked to win the Western Division of the ASC.
Head Coach Larry Hennig said that the ultimate goal this season is to win the conference tournament and advance to the regionals.
“Probably the most important thing is to win the conference tournament,” Hennig said. “Winning the conference tournament is something we’ve never done here.”
Several players return from last year’s team which won the American Southwest Conference West Division with an overall record of 26-17.
“We’ve got the foundation for what we hope will be a very good team this year,” Hennig said. “We’ve been picked to win our division, and we’ve got to be able to go out and play at a high level.”
Junior pitcher and exercise and sport science major Rebekah Ragsdale hopes the team can build its success.
“Last year was definitely a season to remember, but we are staying focused on improving day in and day out.” she said. “It is important for us to prove that our success is something to be expected on a yearly basis.”