Western ready to face tough UNK team

By Mason Marshall

March 27, 2014

The Western baseball team will have to overcome a very competitive Nebraska-Kearney team this weekend, starting March 28. Western faces the Lopers of UNK for a four game series in Kearney, Neb. The Griffons have suffered this season in away games, going only 2-7 on the road. Their overall record this season is 12-12, so the team is looking for wins to turn the season around. UNK has an overall record of 17-10, with most of their games played in neutral locations. Head coach Buzz Verduzco is prepared for the challenge of winning all four games. “They’ve always been a very good and solid program. When we go down there, we have to play our very best baseball in order to win,” Verduzco said. “Their record just proves how solid they are and what kind of season they’re having. We expect a very good fight.” Despite the Lopers’ ability to play on the road, with a record of 8-3, their weakness is playing on their home field, going 2-2 so far this season. Catcher Jake Schrader is prepared to compete at a high level against UNK. “Despite being kind of the underdogs this season, we’re going to compete and just play our hardest,” Schrader said. “If we work hard as a team and keep working together, we can win.” Schrader has the most putouts on the team this season, with a total of 154. He also has 22 assists. Outfielder Ryan Degner is also ready for the challenge of playing the Lopers. “Every team in this league can compete, and we need to make sure our heads are on straight and prepare for battle,” Degner said. “We just need to come out and compete and show up excited everyday with the right mentality to win ball games.” Degner is a new player for Western this season, coming from Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, Ore. Currently, Degner has a .375 batting average. “There’s still a lot of things I need to work on to help the team out, mainly just little things that will help us win ball games,” Degner said. Western’s goal this season is to reach the top eight in the conference tournament, and Verduzco recognizes that it’s going to be a tough battle, but he is sure his team can compete. “We’ve been a little up and down, trying to get our groove as far as certain positions and a set rotation. The pitching staff has been a little bit of a struggle, but we’re trying to understand our team a little bit more, and, once we get to that point, we’ll be fine,” Verduzco said. Verduzco added that the team has improved their defense, and, if they can improve their pitching, the team would be in great shape for the remainder of the season. The first game out of the series is on Friday, March 28, in Kearney, Neb. First pitch is set for 3:00 p.m.