Comets to play every team in American Southwest Conference for first time
The baseball team opened up its season in Frisco from Feb. 14-16 with a 3-0 start — their first perfect start since 2008.
The Comet beat Whitman College 11-5, the University of Puget Sound 6-4 and Hendrix College 7-1. Their perfect start came to a halt on Feb. 18, however, when they lost 6-3 at Southwestern University, leaving them with a 3-1 record. Despite that setback, head coach Shane Shewmake was satisfied with his team’s performance in its first three games.
“We came out swinging,” Shewmake said. “We hit the ball, our pitchers threw really well and we played really good defense. We’ve seen now what we’re capable of if we just play our game.”
Along with accomplishing the team goal of winning their opening games, individual members of the team achieved personal honors. Sophomore shortstop Jimmy Norris was named ASC conference player of the week and was named to the NCAA Division III national team of the week after his debut over the weekend for UTD, earning nine hits and scoring seven runs.
Another standout was junior pitcher Calvin Campbell, who was a second team all-ASC East pick last season and was tabbed as a player to watch by the ASC’s preseason poll. Speaking after his winning start over Hendrix on Feb.16, in which he threw three strikeouts and had a 1.29 ERA, he shared his thoughts about the win.
“It’s a great feeling to start it off. The pitching was great, we had great defense and we hit the ball tremendously,” Campbell said. “It was definitely a little nerve-racking going into that first start, but I had a great team behind me to back me up.”
Campbell praised the performance of his teammates in their first three games.
“Even before last weekend we knew this team was good, but coming in and winning that first series 3-0, we could see that we really do have something special here,” Campbell said.
The Comets have been predicted to finish in fourth place in the conference according to the ASC’s preseason poll. The team finished last season with a 21-21 record and a berth in the ASC tournament.
This year presents a unique challenge to the Comets, as this is the first year that every team in the ASC will play one another in the same division. In seasons past, the conference had been split up into an Eastern division and a Western one, but this year the ASC will be undivided.
“This is the first year that I’ve been here that we play every school in the conference,” Shewmake said. “It’s going to be really fun getting to play everyone this year. Sometimes you only get to play teams if you meet them in the playoffs, whereas this year you get to play everyone.”
The Comets ended last season by failing to make it past the first round of the ASC playoffs, where they lost in two consecutive shutouts to Concordia University. It was only the second time since the teams’ inception that they had been eliminated in the opening round of the tournament.
“The anticipation is very high,” senior catcher Trevor Clifton said. “All of the guys that were here last year have a bad taste in our mouth from how things ended and are looking to regroup, come back and do some better things this year. As long as every player fills their role and does their job, we’re going to be really tough to beat this season.”
Clifton, along with Campbell, was marked as a player to watch this season by the ASC. Clifton, who had a .228 batting average last year and had two doubles and two home runs, earned honorable mention All ASC-East honors last season. He started two games over the weekend, earning four hits.
UTD’s three-win start kicked off their 29-game regular season, which ends May 3. They are looking to qualify for the ASC tournament once again and advance farther than last season.
“Our expectation every year is to win a conference championship, go on and win the regional, and get to the national championship,” Clifton said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do to get there, but if we play the game the right way, we’ll make those goals.”
Shewmake, speaking on his teams’ readiness for the season, shared the high goals that his players expressed.
“I’m excited and ready to get started,” Shewmake said. “Our pitching depth is good and our defense can pick the ball up and throw it well. If we can hit, the sky’s the limit with this bunch.”