Baseball Lions: a team in transition
Veterans, greenhorns set to build a winner
Loathing for losing could be the difference
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- The new look Lions baseball team from Southwestern Assemblies of God University will take the field during two doubleheaders on Friday and Saturday.
How many wins they’ll take this season is unknown.
Entering his second year as SAGU’s Head Coach, Jon Shockley will put a young line-up on center stage when Hillsdale College (Ok) visits for a 4-game series at the new on-campus ballpark.
The Lions graduated nine seniors from a team that finished last (14-28 record) in the Red River Athletic Conference a year ago.
The entire outfield, a few infielders and much of the pitching rotation is gone, giving way to a young, confident cast.
Just nine players from 2012 remain on a 31-man roster that includes 17 freshmen, nine sophomores and five juniors.
“Yes, we are young,” Shockley said yesterday. “We are also quite capable. Plus, these guys hate losing. I really like their collective mindset.”
Gauging the team's player leadership reveals where the Lions grrrowl will come from. Juniors Jared Denton (Mission, Tx / Sharyland HS) and Nick Sheffield (Maypearl, Tx / Maypearl HS), a pair of juniors who were named co-captains, set the tempo and rattle the Lions cage.
Here is a breakdown of last year's senior-laden ballclub, which will show why returning players are so hungry.
Last year’s Lions were fourth in the RRAC in batting with a .284 average. But when it came to scoring, the ‘Cats were ninth at 3.57 runs per game.
Despite an increase in stolen bases, from last (44) in 2011 to third (94) in 2012, SAGU left too many runners on base.
The lack of power at the plate was a key factor. The club was last in doubles (42 in 42 games) and in home runs (4).
The Lions’ pitching, while not spectacular, did make steady progress. During 42 games they held teams to single digits in runs scored 30 times. The year before they accomplished that feat only 18 times.
Translation: SAGU allowed opponents to score 10+ runs in 12 games. That was the best they had done in eight years. The year before they allowed 10+ runs in 22 games, the most in eight years.
The team’s combined ERA (Earned Run Average) was 5.27. That figure was the best in eight seasons, ranking sixth in the RRAC. In 2011 it was 7.38 (9th).
It resulted in the Lions reducing opponent scoring by nearly 30%. The opposition pushed 270 runs across the plate last spring. That compares very favorably with the 373 runs allowed in 2011.
The defense turned 22 double plays, easily better than the one turned in by the 2011 squad. SAGU committed 98 errors after making 121 miscues in 2011.
Translation: Vexing was the slight increase in post-game victory celebrations. The Purple Pride was much more competitive, yet the bottom line was unsatisfying.
The returning veterans, along with a bumper crop of neophytes, look to affect the culture on a team looking for their first winning season in the NAIA. In 2006 the Lions came close at 20-22-1 (.338 BA / 5.34 ERA).
SAGU’s likely starting line-up and pitching rotation for this weekend’s opening series will appear in the next article.
The Lions roster and schedule are posted here under Athletics / Baseball. Click the tabs for Roster and Schedule.
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