Baseball looks to improve

Senior pitcher Cole Hanson practices with the baseball team on Jan. 22. Photo by Ben Cannon | Mercury Staff.

With the UTD baseball team placing second in the American Southwest Conference and two athletes on the Players to Watch list, the team has begun preparing for its first series of games in Arizona.

This past year, the team finished the season in second place in the ASC with a 33-11 record, including 19-5 in conference, and made it to the semifinals of the ASC tournament. Head coach Shane Shewmake said this marked one of the most successful seasons the teams had in recent years, meaning they now have a target on their backs.

“There are higher expectations after what we accomplished last year,” Shewmake said. “We ranked seventh in the nation in one poll and ranked second in our conference this year. So there’s no surprises, everyone knows we’re good and it’s just being able to handle those expectations.”

The team will start the 2017-2018 season on the road, playing their first games on the weekend of Feb. 9 against four teams, including California Lutheran — the 2017 NCAA Division III National Champions — in Tucson, Arizona. After the games in Tucson, they will play in Fort Worth against Texas Wesleyan, then travel to Arkansas for three games. The team’s first home games will be Feb. 23-24 as they host Belhaven for a three-game series against the Blazers. Senior pitcher Jamie Andriot said they are not worried about the long trip.

“We want to get the season started and we want to show what the team’s been working for,” Andriot said. “We’re confident we have just as much talent and just as much work ethic as any team out there. It’ll be a good opportunity to show what we got.”

The coming season also marks the return of 13 seniors, including Andriot and senior first baseman Barry Casey. Last year, Andriot set the UTD record for most wins in a season, going 10-0 on the mound, with a 2.70 run average. Casey was nominated third team All-American by the American Baseball Coaches Association last season and set the team high with 54 batted runs. Casey said the team is eager to prove themselves, especially with so many seniors on the team.

“We were hungry coming into the new year and we’re excited for more,” Casey said. “We’re ready to tackle on any challenges that come our way.”

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