Lions Baseball Update and Yogi Berra
Southwestern heads to Oklahoma in search of more wins
Schedule Change: Doubleheader on Friday, solo game on Saturday
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- Legendary baseball player Yogi Berra, a catcher for New York fifty years ago, and current character in an Aflac TV commercial, has always been known for his puns, humor and unique quotes about America's pastime, baseball.
Using a few of his memorable statements as markers, let's take a fresh look at the Southwestern Assemblies of God University's baseball team.
The Lions, 5-5 in their past ten games, will travel 247 miles this weekend to play in Muskogee, Oklahoma against fellow Red River Athletic Conference foe, Bacone College. The three-game series has a change in plans. Due to 60% chance of afternoon rain on Saturday, the teams will play a doubleheader on Friday at 1:00pm.
A Saturday matinee solo game will begin at 1:00pm. The games will be at Warrior Field, BC's on-campus ballpark.
Bacone, who has been on the positive side of .500 for years (a combined 52-46 the past two seasons), are struggling this spring. The Warriors had a large roster turnover after last season as well as a change in head coaches.
A year ago the Lions were swept in Muskogee, losing 20-12, 2-1 and 13-0. Bacone hit .325 as a team, scoring 6.4 runs per game. Their collective pitching earned run average was 7.06. This season their bats have dropped off to .247 as well as their run production (4.0 runs per game). Their ERA this season is 7.41.
SAGU Baseball: Upgrade Noticed
"You can observe a lot just by watching" - Yogi Berra
Meanwhile, SAGU's combined team batting average is .287 this season after going .266 in 2010. Their run production has elevated from 5.0 to 5.4. The biggest area of improvement has been the team's pitching and defense. Their ERA a season was a league worst 10.0. The rise in 2011 has been obvious, with their collaborative ERA at 7.35.
Answering the Question
"I wish I had an answer to that because I'm tired of answering that question." - Yogi Berra
Pitching Coach Clay Scarborough, who had hinted recently that changes in the pitching line-up might continue, addressed the queries about this weekend's starters during Wednesday afternoon's practice.
He announced their rotation for the three games: Cameron Ward (Mansfield, Tx / Grace Prep), a senior left-hander with a 3-1 mark (5.89 ERA), will start the twinbill on Friday. Nic Morgan (Fort Worth, Tx / LeTourneau Univ, Boswell HS), also a southpaw (1-2, 5.68 ERA), will get the rock for Game Two.
Jared Jones (Copperas Cove, Tx / Copperas Cove HS), a righty (1-3, 6.84), will pitch the series finale on Saturday. Both Morgan and Jones are sophomores.
"I think Little League is wonderful. It keeps the kids out of the house." - Yogi Berra
Six different pitchers have registered a win, with Ward's three leading the team. In 2010, opponents batted .352 against Lions pitchers. This year that figure has been chopped down to .289.
The significant progress with many of the same players reveals much about player development and hard work by individuals and the coaching staff.
Right-handed closer Tim Kolczak (San Antonio, Tx / Taft HS) is referred to as the "Assassin" by Head Coach Greg Hayes for his ability to put the nail in the coffin. He has squelched opponents in the clutch to the tune of four saves and a 3.32 ERA. His number of saves doubles the number anyone on SAGU achieved a year ago and ranks #22 in the nation (NAIA, Division I).
Jones will play shortstop the first two games of the series with freshman Weston Lippe (Huntsville, Tx / Alpha-Omega HS) manning the pivotal infield position while Jones is on the hill.
"You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I'm not hungry enough to eat six." - Yogi Berra
Coach Hayes credits the improved play this season to hungry players who "are eager to hone their skills and rise to the competitive level of our conference," he said. "We've got a core group of players who work hard to become more complete in their game and in their approach. They're hungry."
Statistically, a number of players are having standout seasons, at bat, on the mound and in the field. The top five batters include;
Senior rightfielder Patrick Wherland (Petrolia, Tx / Petrolia HS) is at it again this year! He is swinging a .431 magic stick, good for #40 in the nation. He leads the team in runs batted in (25) as well as hits (47).
His BA ranks sixth in the RRAC, while his hit total is second only to Northwood's Nico Taylor (53). Wherland 47 base raps places him at #8 nationally. Wherland has 11 extra base hits including a team-high three homeruns.
Dustin Jett (Patterson, La / Patterson HS) has returned to form this year. The junior centerfielder is stroking at a .347 clip, leading the club in runs (25) and is second in hits (35). The leadoff man has walked 22 times and has been successful in 14 of 15 steal attempts. Jett's 14 swipes places him #34 in the NAIA. He is getting on base in 46% of his at bats.
Jones has been heating up since his return from season-ending shoulder injury in 2010. He batted .278 last spring and knocked in 12 runs. He is currently at .317 with 16 RBI.
First baseman DuJuan Prater (Copperas Cove, Tx / Copperas Cove HS) and Ward, who plays at first, leftfield and Designated Hitter when he's not pitching, continue their steady efforts.
Prater is batting .309 with 23 RBI and 10 extra base hits. The sophomore's slugging percentage of .474 trails only Wherland's .587. Ward, the consummate two-hole in the batter order, is enjoying a superb final season. He is batting .289 and either finds a way to get on base (26 hits, 12 walks, 6 hit by pitch, .396 on-base percentage) or advances runners with his ball placement as a spray hitter.
Added to the mix is freshman Jared Denton (Mission, Tx / Sharyland HS), whose bat is a mix of average (.271) and power (14 RBI on seven XBH).
Dominic Denney (Albuquerque, NM / LaCueva HS), the team's junior catcher, has stepped up his game throughout this campaign. His defensive work behind the plate and his abilities in calling a good game for the bullpen have been visible. His bat may have been quiet of late, but his discipline has led to 30 walks and an impressive, team-best .484 on-base percentage. The base on balls figure broke SAGU's record of 25.
Batting Slump Reversals
"I never blame myself when I'm not hitting. I just blame the bat and if it keeps up, I change bats. After all, if I know it isn't my fault that I'm not hitting, how can I get mad at myself?" - Yogi Berra
Should talented batters like Ben Chavez (Roswell, NM / NMMI, Gateway HS), Riley Hensel (Maypearl, Tx / Maypearl HS), David Gomez (Del Rio, Tx / Bowie HS) and Lippe assume a stronger role with their bat and/or glove, the team could continue their growth pattern by making some noise in the Red River. Each has shown signs they are on the verge of a 180 degree change of fortune.
"Slump? I ain't in no slump... I just ain't hitting." - Yogi Berra
Senior Night, April 22
"I just want to thank everyone who made this day necessary." - Yogi Berra
Southwestern will honor its' senior class on Friday night, April 22, at the Waxahachie Sports Complex. Prior to the 6:00pm start against Texas College, the Lions will pay tribute to senior players and their parents.
Improved Play has brought Improved Attendance
"Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded." - Yogi Berra
Home games this spring have been well attended. The Lions' final home games will take place against Texas College that weekend, April 22-23.
SAGU hosts NCCAA Central Region tourney
Southwestern will be playing host to the Central Regional Tournament of the National Christian College Athletic Association during May 12-14. As many as ten teams could come to Waxahachie, though the likely number will be between four and six.
"He hits from both sides of the plate. He's amphibious." - Yogi Berra
In the most recent SAGU baseball article (Title: "Winners of 3-of-4, Lions bats explode!"), junior pitcher Tim Kolczak was erroneously listed as lefthanded. He is not ambidextrous.