Missouri Western will play their conference opening series this weekend against Washburn at the Griffon Baseball Field. The teams will face off Friday afternoon at 2:00, Saturday at 1:00 and then they’ll wrap-up the series Sunday afternoon at 1:00.
Head coach Buzz Verduzco knows this is going to be a to a tough challenge for the Griffons.
“Washburn is going to be good, very good,” Verduzco said.
Western is ready to get back to work. The Griffons haven’t played a live game since Feb. 14th and even though they have been practicing, it is hard to simulate game speed.
“We’ve been trying to keep ourselves in game mode,” Verduzco said. “Keeping everything as game-like as possible.”
The Griffons hope to keep the bats going for their first series at home. They have been led offensively by catcher Brandon Downs. Downs is hitting .375 early on in this season, with two doubles, a home run and seven RBIs. Also playing well early on is infielder Cosimo Cannella. Cannella is hitting .370 with two home runs and 12 RBIs in the first two events down in Arkansas.
Pitching will be key for Western going into conference play.
After an off-season where many believed that this would be the strength of the team, it is time for the staff to put it all together. The staff bounced back in their last tournament after a shaky start in their season opening series against Arkansas Tech. The team ERA is still at 5.81, which puts them at No.8 in the MIAA.
“We’re going to have to be very patient with our starting pitching,” Verduzco said.
The team will rely on pitcher Richard Peoples to lead this staff as he did in 2015. Peoples was tied for the team lead with five wins, but also led the team with five saves. In the early part of the season, Peoples has struggled, posting an ERA of 5.73 in 11 innings of work.
They also have another senior pitcher to rely on, and that is Weston Caindec. Caindec has had a solid start to his final season in black and gold, posting a 2.61 ERA in a little over 10 innings of work.
“I love the pressure that was put on us over the off-season,” Caindec said.
Verduzco wants his team to just focus on not making mistakes. In this early part of the season, he knows that fixing the little things is key for the Griffons.
“We just want to eliminate as many mistakes as we can out there,” Verduzco said.
After their series this weekend, the Griffons will travel to Bolivar, Missouri to take on Southwest Baptist University.