UTD’s baseball team, ranked 14th in the country, is seeing success this season after the addition of 13 transfer students to the roster.
The Comets are nationally ranked for the first time in 10 years following a large offseason roster turnover, during which they lost nine graduating seniors. Head coach Shane Shewmake and his assistants looked for students with experience to help fill the void.
“We knew we had to bring in some guys that could make an immediate impact,” Shewmake said. “Transfers do that.”
During recruitment, Shewmake spoke to other coaches and looked for recommendations on players to replace the lost starters, including pitchers, first and third base positions. UTD’s coaching staff looked for athletes who could fit in with the team both as a good player and as a good teammate.
“We felt like as we brought them in that we were adding some quality guys,” Shewmake said.
Because Division III schools are not allowed to give athletic scholarships, Shewmake used the academics at UTD as a selling point for potential transfer students. Junior pitcher Ruben Renteria was drawn to the school and the Jindal School of Management on the recommendation of his junior college coach.
“I told him I wanted a good academic school that I could go to and leave with a job,” Renteria said.
Adjusting from the academic and athletic expectations at junior college to those at UTD was a tough but enjoyable transition for Renteria.
“At the end of the day, when you’re playing baseball, you’re supposed to have fun,” he said. “I come here to relax and forget about it all for a little bit.”
For the transfers, finding the team chemistry was simple. They were able to relate to each other through their junior college experiences.
“When we got here, the transfers got together,” Renteria said. “It was like, ‘Oh, cool, you played here? We played against these guys.’”
So far this season, Renteria has gone 8-1, with an ERA of 2.14 through 63 innings pitched.
“This is probably the best I’ve played in all my life,” he said.
He is not the only one contributing to the outstanding season so far, with the team batting a .349 average and a 274 RBI over 37 games played. On the fielding side, the team has a fielding percentage of .962 with only 51 errors.
“A pitcher without their defense is nothing,” Renteria said. “Every time I’m out there, the team never fails to back me up.”
Shewmake said he feels the team has done well focusing on what’s in front of them this season, rather than worry about what’s down the road.
“As long as we can keep doing that, we’re going to be okay,” he said. “We’re right where we need to be.”
The team has ranked as high as 10th during the season, a novelty to Renteria, who has never been on a team ranked above twentieth. Moving into their last few weeks and the ASC tournament, the team has its eye on the national tournament.
“The team wants it and I want it definitely,” Renteria said. “We are not going to go home empty handed. If we go out, we’re going to go out fighting.”