Balanced pitching staff leads Griffons

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Griffon baseball is ranked No. 5 in the conference preseason poll and is back in action for the 2016 season following a 29-21 2015 season and two losses to Washburn in the MIAA tournament.

To open the season Western will travel to Russellville, Ark. to face the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys.

The players are excited to finally see some regular season action after going through the off-season according to senior Orencio Fisher.

“We finally got through the toughest parts of the year, which is fall and winter,” Fisher said. “We all grinded throughout the whole fall and winter and going into the season, I can tell it’s going to pay off.”

Last year, the Griffons split their season opener with the Wonder Boys 2-2. This year, Western still expects to be a tough adversary to handle.

“It has been really important that we’ve been able to, the very least, get outside and simulate game like action because they [Arkansas Tech] have actually already played a couple games,” Fisher said. “So [we] just [have to] eliminate the butterflies and play with a lot of intensity and we will be a very tough opponent for anybody.”

Although the Griffons lost five senior pitchers from last year, head coach Buzz Verduzco believes that this pitching staff will be the team’s most important strength this year.

“The biggest thing for us is going to be our [pitching] staff, I think that’s going to be our highlight,” Verduzco said. “This is probably our most complete and probably our most balanced pitching staff since I’ve been here.”

There is some speed returning to the lineup as well through Fisher who has been challenged by Verduzco to steal 30 bags this season, he stole 24 the previous year. The Griffons are also bringing back some power into the order with junior David Glaude, who was tied with a team leading 12 home runs in 2015, as well as senior Cosimo Cannella who was in second with seven homers.

The series that all of the returners have circled on the schedule is the home opener against Washburn University. Western has to get through their opening series against Arkansas Tech and the HSU Spring Invitational first, but they are already looking towards getting revenge against the team that took them out of the MIAA Tournament last year.

“All of the returners from last season are very anxious to return for our home opener against Washburn and beat them,” Fisher said. “We got knocked out 2-0 against them last season in the conference playoffs so we got to come out and prove ourselves and set the tone early for conference play.”

Western’s season opener against Arkansas Tech will be on Saturday Feb. 6 at 1 p.m. followed by their second game against the Wonder Boys at 3 p.m.