The Griffons will start off the season ranked No. 17 in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper preseason poll, but, according to the players, that’s just a number to them.
Last year was a season to remember for the baseball team. They were ranked throughout most of the season, and they even picked up their first MIAA title.
While the team is aware of their rankings and their success from last year, none of that matters to them this season.
“It’s just a ranking,” outfielder David Chew said. “It doesn’t mean anything right now because we have not played a game yet. It says a lot about our program, but to me, we have to go out and show that we deserve it.”
Chew was a part of last year’s team, and he hopes this year’s squad can follow up and be even better.
“We are expecting to be just as good as the team last year,” Chew said. “We are different from the team last year, but we are expecting to have the same type of year. Our goal is to win the league, win the regional and go on to the division championship.”
Western has brought in a lot of new talent, and the roster is as deep as it was a year ago. Despite many players graduating and moving on to the next level, head coach Buzz Verduzco made finding their replacements seem effortless.
“I feel really good about the new players,” Verduzco said. “We had a lot of players to replace from last season. We think that a lot of the newcomers are going to be good on the mound. A lot of them have experience, and they will be ready when game one comes around.”
Verduzco’s team is loaded with pitchers, and, collectively, he feels they will be the strongest position on the team.
“A kid by the name of Tyler Sanders will be a right-handed closer for us,” Verduzco said. “We got Russell, we got Woods; these type of kids that were junior college area players that have been through the fire and know how to play college baseball.”
Jake Schrader will be looked at as a leader for the Griffons this year. Schrader is a veteran catcher, but will also look to drive in some runs for his team.
Schrader is aware they lost a lot of good hitters from last year, but is confident in his team’s pitching core.
“I feel like we can be real successful,” Schrader said. “We lost a lot of big bats from last year, but our pitching staff is back, and that will be our strong point. We’re going to have to scratch out runs here and there, but, other than that, we are pretty much the same team.”
Schrader understands that people on the team will look up to him, and he feels obligated to be a leader for his team.
“They are going to have a lot of questions when we are on the road and stuff like that,” Schrader said. “I’ll try to be there for them. Personally for me, I have high expectations. It’s my last year, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Western was also ranked No. 2 in the MIAA preseason rankings. For their home opener, they will host Northeastern State University on Feb. 21.