Fifteen seniors, 9 juniors look to lead team through ASC scrum
The baseball team enters the 2015 season boasting a deep and veteran pitching rotation interjected with a cast of strong batters.
The teams 2014 campaign ended in the semifinals of the ASC Tournament after it earned its 13th straight 20-plus win season, finishing 27-17.
The league’s preseason poll has UTD finishing second in the ASC this season. The team had four first-place votes, ranking only behind Concordia, which had 19.
Senior Tyler Dauer and junior Brandon George were listed as ASC Players to Watch.
George, an infielder, has been making headway since transferring into the program last spring, hitting a team-high .356 with four home runs.
He led the Comets with 36 RBIs and eight doubles last year.
After leading the Comets in nearly every vital pitching statistic last season, pitcher Dauer posted a 7-1 record with a 3.12 ERA in 86.2 innings pitched.
Dauer led the league with 93 strikeouts, earning second team All-ASC honors last season.
“Offseason preparation helped me break out last season, but this season I’m focused on winning for the team and striking out as many batters as I can,” Dauer said.
Head coach Shane Shewmake will flaunt one of the most experienced squads of his 14-year tenure with 15 seniors and 9 juniors on the Comets’ roster.
One key addition for the team will be new pitching coach Jonathon Armold.
“He’s had a chance to be where the players want to go,” Shewmake said. “He has the experience and does a great job talking to the guys and pushing them to be the best.”
Dauer said his two years of experience in the Major League Baseball farm system, playing for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and his ability to relate to the players is helping them improve their games.
“Coach Armold relates to us, he has been working us hard and it’s apparent in our performance,” Dauer said.
Players say they are especially enthusiastic about freshman pitcher Andrew Leilich.
Leilich, the 6-foot-3 inch, 172 pound pitching prospect from The Woodlands will be looking to make an immediate impact.
“I’m excited to see what he can do, he has a powerful arm and the coaches are happy to be able to hrow in there,” Dauer said.
While the majority of the 2014 team is back, the Comets experienced some turnover on the mound.
“We feel like these freshmen have a great chance to step in and have a big impact,” Shewmake said.
Led by Dauer, this year’s bullpen will benefit from the injection of new talent and returning players coming into their roles.
“We have a lot of depth this season.” Dauer said. “It doesn’t matter who is in. We will do well with the guys we brought in this season.”
This team is returning a pair of key performers on the mound in seniors Nick Cummings and Micah Easterling.
Easterling made a massive leap in his second year with the program in 2014. He was named honorable mention All-ASC East as a sophomore, posting a 6-3 record with a 3.75 ERA.
Cummings led the team with three pickoffs, finishing with a 3.03 ERA last season.
While the pitching is stocked with returning talent, the offense enters the 2015 season with the most uncertainty.
Most of the questions center around who will bring home the runners’ consistency.
“We have added a couple freshmen and transfers we really like with strong bats, but we need guys to step up,” Shewmake said.
George, who led the team in hits, batting average and runs last year, has the most returning experience as a starter.
Senior Brandon Clounch and junior Jimmy Norris, who combined for 88 hits and 35 RBIs will also play a big role.
The team is returning a loaded group of infielders and outfielders, including seniors Tanner Gandy and Clounch.
The Comets will also have transfer junior outfielder Haden Johnson, who spent two seasons at Northern Oklahoma College helping that team reach conference and regional championships.
The baseball team hasn’t won fewer than 20 games since it began in 2002. With key contributors returning and insertion of fresh prospects, the team is ready for the season to get started.
“This is one of the deepest teams we have ever had, they are capable of getting to nationals,” Shewmake said.
The team hasn’t made it to the NCAA Tournament since the 2007 season.
To get there, they will have to do well at the conference level. The Comets want to enter the ASC Tournament hitting the ground running.
“With the new guys coming in and the leadership we have throughout the team, we can be a real contender this season,” Dauer said.