Published in the January 25, 2017 issue of The Bells
With a little over three weeks away from the first pitch of the 2017 season, the Cru baseball team has been hard at work trying to prepare for what looks to be a tough but promising season. Coming off an 11-28 record last year, this team has a lot to prove. But Head Coach Ben Shipp is confident that they can do it.
“We are apprehensive and excited to start the season,” Shipp said. “We had a tough season last year. We got hit with the injury bug and we weren’t deep enough to handle it. Obviously going into this season, we don’t want to experience that again.”
Shipp said the team has worked to overcome last year’s injury struggles and is looking forward to getting back on the field.
“I’m always excited this time of the year,” he said. “I just can’t wait to get started.”
This year’s team has been improving every day in many different areas, and Shipp believes that these improvements will lead them to a successful season.
“I really like our pitching staff this season. We have been young for several years and we are finally getting to be a little older. I’m hoping that they are going to be the glue that holds us together,” Shipp said.
He thinks the team has also dramatically improved their speed.
“Pretty much everyone can run well,” he said. “We’re looking forward to playing a little different type of game than we have in the past. That’s always fun.”
Shipp and the rest of the team know there are areas that they need to continue to improve on and they have their sights set on doing so this season.
“This [year], we are aiming to cut down on the number of walks. We had way too many free passes last year,” he said. “Also, we want to be a little more aggressive at the plate. Last season, I felt like we took too many pitches and weren’t aggressive enough.”
In order to reach their goal of winning the American Southwest Conference, Shipp believes there are many steps that this team must take.
“Our first goal for every season is to win our conference championship. But along with that, there are steps we need to take. The first step is to get this team to play with confidence,” he said. “They are all very talented, but if we can get them to play with confidence, I think we can do a good job. The second step is to get the team to play together and believe in each other.”
Throughout the offseason, the team has been working around the clock, pushing themselves to be the best that they can be.
“We have spent a lot of time in the weight room this past fall, along with short amounts of time spent on the field where we actually get to coach them,” Shipp said.
The coach said the players have also been working hard on their own, trying to get stronger and faster.
“They’ve done a really great job preparing for this season, so I really feel good about where we are from a strength and stamina standpoint,” he said. “Our pitchers have also been on a throwing program to increase their stamina. We need them to throw a few more innings than they did last year, and I have confidence that they will.”
The Cru is predicted to finish 10th in the ASC by the annual Preseason Coaches and Media Poll, however, that will not stop this team from achieving what they have set out to do. “I appreciate the coaches giving us a rally cry,” Shipp said. “No one is very happy about our ranking, but success and respect is earned, and obviously we didn’t earn those two things last season so they don’t expect a lot out of us this year. But that gives us a bolt of motivation going forward.”
The Cru will face Texas Lutheran University in Seguin, Texas on Tuesday, Feb. 14 at 7 p.m., for their first game of the 2017 season. Their first home game of the season takes place on Saturday, Feb. 18 at 3 p.m. at Red Murff Field vs. Centenary College (Louisiana).