Ben Shipp returns for his second season as head coach for the Crusader baseball team. Shipp said he is eager to coach this young team after losing six seniors last year.
“It’s a challenge, and there is so much to cover. However, I’m not concerned by the youth as much as excited about the talent this team possesses.”
Shipp is thankful for his seniors, as they helped the new coaches adapt to the Crusader atmosphere.
He said fans should keep an eye out for new players such as Tripp Reeves, Alex Smith and KJ Stark. He believes these three players have a lot to offer the team and is excited to see their future performance.
Shipp is confident in the team’s speed and depth, and thinks it will provide Crusader fans with a different style of game due to the power behind their bats.
He said, “The key to winning games this year will be consistency in pitching.”
Junior left-handed pitcher, Ian Ekery, said, “This year’s baseball team is very young after the loss of six seniors last year, creating a learning atmosphere throughout the beginning of the season.”
Although the team is full of younger players, Ekery believes it will be a lot stronger defensively. He is an exercise and sport science major and plans to pursue a career in physical therapy.
Ekery wears the number 16 in honor of famous Yankee pitcher, Whitey Ford. Ekery prides himself on his change-up pitch. But he also has a number of other pitches that he has worked on in the off-season.
Senior right-handed closer, Danny Horstman, believes he “should set an example in leading the young team” as one of only three seniors this year. Horstman wears the number 7 on the field in honor of his favorite player, Craig Biggio, a retired second baseman for the Astros. Horstman also majors in exercise and sport science in hopes of pursuing a career in physical therapy after graduation.
The two veteran Crusader pitchers believe the key to winning games this year will be the team’s defensive strength and ability to advance the runners.
After finishing last season with an even 21 and 21 record, Shipp is confident the team will finish higher in the standings this conference season.
The Crusaders, ranked sixth out of 12 in the pre-season conference, will take Red Murff Field in all new uniforms for their first home game Feb. 28, as they take on last year’s ASC champions, the Patriots of UT Tyler.
The Crusaders are talented across the board but putting it all together will be the key focus for this year’s team. Last year the team finished the season with a .500 record, eventually falling to Louisiana College in a three-game series.
Although the Cru lost in the first round of the ASC tournament, it gave them a taste of postseason play, and that will be a driving force this year.