Roster questions linger for LU baseball
By Brett McMillan
Publication: The Legacy (Lindenwood University Newspaper)
Date Published: January 2012
The infield at the Lou Brock Sports complex was deemed unplayable after strong rains Sunday. The dirt on the field is not the only thing that will enter the 2012 Lindenwood baseball season muddy, so will the roster.
Twenty-eight of the 33 players on the Lions 2012 roster are underclassmen, 15 of those are freshmen.
“You kind of go into the season knowing that patience level is going to have to be like never before, and I don’t know if I have what it takes to have that throughout the season,” manager Doug Bletcher said. “I’ve been preparing myself for the fact that all of the coaching staff are going to have to help each other post game, to sit there and have our talks, and pick each other up.”
Bletcher said the youth on his team does pose challenges, but also produces tremendous opportunity for a program he is trying to build without recruiting many transfers.
Last season, the Lions finished with an overall record of 32-23 and a conference record of 20-8. LU was eliminated from the Heart of America Conference Tournament after a 5-4 loss to Mid-American Nazarene [Kan.] University.
Two of the four returning starters from last season’s order are sophomores.
Sophomore catcher Zach Loraine is the lone returning player from last year’s starting lineup who hit over .300 a year ago. He is also the only Lion returning who ranked in the team’s top five in total bases last season.
“I think [the offense] is going to be alright,” Loraine said. “Altogether we’re a young team, but for the most part we’re just going to have to play small ball.”
The offense will also include a few transfers, such as junior outfielder Colton Moore. Moore hit .328 during 2012 for NCAA Div. I Murray State [Ky.], and started 43 of the 46 games he appeared in. He hit one home run and had 39 RBI.
Bletcher said he is not sure what his opening day lineup will look like, but there are players he must commit innings to if he wants them to develop properly.
“There are probably like 13 players we feel like we’ve got to give 100 at bats or more, and then there is a break down you could have,” Bletcher said. “It can’t be just nine guys or eight position players. It’s got to have a certain amount of depth.”
The Lion’s pitching staff lost last year’s leader in appearances and strikeouts alum Cory Trudell.
Sophomore pitcher Zac Pearman led the Lions in innings pitched and wins last season, although he did trail Trudell in earned run average. Trudell finished the season with a 3.58 ERA, a full run better than Pearman.
Loraine said he thinks new pitching coach Nathan Beuster is positioning the staff for success.
“He knows what he is doing, coaching wise,” Loraine said. “Our pitchers have [good stuff], not by any means is it going to blow by anybody, but they throw strikes.”
This season, LU baseball will be an NCAA Div. II independent like the other Lindenwood programs making the switch from the NAIA to the NCAA. A year from now the Lions will be getting ready to begin their first Mid-American Athletic Association conference schedule.
Bletcher said his ball club needs every spare hour during the next year to prepare to compete in the MIAA, and he said he knows it will not be an easy transition.
“We have a challenge before us in the sense that if we’re going to be very outcome-oriented this year, perhaps, one would view it as not a productive year,” Bletcher said. “And we simply can’t look at it that way.”