Baseball season is finally here, and head baseball coach Buzz Verduzco starts his remarkable 20th season at Missouri Western.
Verduzco is 533-390 in his career at Missouri Western with 15 winning seasons. He expects the baseball program to continue their success this year as he has a lot of returning faces in the lineup.
“It’s a team that returns guys who played a lot last year,” Verduzco said. “So, them being in the fire and having a lot of experience and doing decently well in the MIAA tournament last year, that’s going to help them. Experience really plays.”
Junior shortstop Dusty Stroup and senior outfielder Casey Danley highlight the Griffons returning players. Stroup started all 53 games last year at shortstop and led the team with 68 hits and 44 RBIs. Danley also started all 53 games and led the team with 11 home runs and a .327 batting average. Stroup thinks having so many returning faces really helps the team in the beginning stages of the season.
“I think our chemistry is great,” Stroup said. “It’s probably the best I’ve ever seen as far as my time here. It helps that I’m a returning guy and know the ropes, but I think we’ve all meshed really well.”
Junior pitcher Kellen Richards believes the strong leadership on this team also helps some of the younger players get accustomed faster.
“One of the things that the upperclassman, seniors, do well is lead by example very very well,” Richards said. “They work hard, take practice seriously, take reps seriously and hitting when they have free time.”
One of the early challenges for Missouri Western is the weather in Missouri this winter has kept them indoors, where neither the coaches or players want to be. Fortunately, the GISC helps accommodate better than other facilities.
“We’ve found through the years that indoors is indoors,” Verduzco said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a gym or the indoor here, it’s still the element of being inside. However, when you have a larger indoor, there’s a few more things you can do. You can throw full distance, the roof is high enough to hit modified fly balls unlike when we were in Looney.”
“We can do a lot inside because of the GISC,” Stroup said. “We can hit because of the nice drop-down cages. We have the whole turf facility so we can pretty much do everything we can do on the field. The only way to prepare for [outdoor] is to simulate game like situations indoor.”
Missouri Western baseball had its first action over the weekend as they traveled to Shawnee, Oklahoma, to play Oklahoma Baptist University. After losing the first two games, Missouri Western salvaged the finale and left with a 1-2 record to begin the season.
Next up is the Henderson State Invitational which begins Thursday, Feb. 7 in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.