Missouri Western baseball is hoping to have yet another successful season under head coach Buzz Verduzco as they come into the 2018 season younger, and hungrier.
Coming in ranked number five in the preseason polls, Western knows that they’re still looked highly upon despite their youth, but Verduzco still hopes they can surprise people.
“This is a different team than last year, expectations are different,” Verduzco said. “The feel is different, everything is different, but I’m still sure we’ll surprise a few people.”
The key story coming into this season is the departure of many key players in the multi-record breaking season of 2017. These names include: David Glaude, Landon Mason, Nick Gawley, Logan Marston and Richard Peoples.
Only one position player is a returning full time starter from last year, and that’s sophomore Dusty Stroup.
“Even though it’s only my second year, people have seen how much I’ve played and a few people do look up to me, so it’s different,” Stroup said.
The team will have a few more returning pitchers, but they are still very young. Nate Hunter, Dustin Agnew, Preston Bailey and Kellan Richards are a few of the big returning pitchers.
There are a lot of roadblocks in Western’s way, but utility player Will Jibas isn’t letting that control his goals.
“This year I want to help the team, hit a lot of people in, and win a championship; those are my goals,” Jibas said.
The championship caliber thoughts continued as senior pitcher Trever Carroll also believes this is their year.
“I mean, we’re young, but we’re coached right and we’re going for that championship,” Carroll said. “Shoot for the stars.”
Verduzco also talked about his outlook on the conference and the rankings.
“This is an amazing conference,” Verduzco said. “To make it to the conference championship might even be harder than regionals. I’m honored to hold the five spot in the rankings and this is a team that day in day out can compete and will compete.”
In his 18-year career coach Verduzco’s had a winning percentage in 17 of them, meaning he’s only accumulated one losing season in his career with an overall record of 533-390.
This year, Western brought in nine true freshmen while they have 11 seniors. Although that looks pretty balanced — starting experience wise — these players are pretty young, and they know it, specifically Stroup.
“When you look at it, I am one of the most experienced starters on this team and I’m a sophomore,” Stroup said. “Just means there is more room to grow and more time to improve.”
Western started their season this past weekend in Seacry, Arkansas, against Harding University.