Baseball Spring Season Preview
The Murray State College Baseball Team is gearing up for the spring conference season, and for the first time ever they are doing it as defending champions. Heading into the season, the team is ranked in the top spot in the National Junior College Athletics Association preseason poll.
“It’ll be interesting how we handle that pressure when the roles are switched from the hunter to the hunted,” says Head Coach Zach Crabtree. “It’s kind of new territory for us. I think it’ll be interesting.”
Crabtree says the current Aggies are the most talented group he’s had at MSC. He says the key for this team is for each player to buy into his role as a part of the collective.
“They need to do what’s asked of them and concentrate on the program and the team as a whole,” he says. “If we do that, we have a chance to be really good and get back to the World Series.”
Getting there will be a challenge again this year. The Aggies play in what is considered one of the toughest conferences in Division II. Two of the last three national champions have come from Region 2. Western Oklahoma State College made it through to the national championship tournament the previous five years, winning it all in 2011 and coming in second in 2012.
“A lot of times our regional tournament, which is basically our conference, is just as tough as the world series,” says Crabtree. “We know that it will come down to the regional tournament. Whoever plays the best that weekend, between us and Western and Redlands, will ultimately have the chance to win the national championship. There are a lot games between now and then.”
A few of those games will be played against the number two team in the country…Louisiana State University-Eunice. In March, the Aggies will once travel to Eunice, Louisiana to take on the Bengals. This time as the team that knocked them out of back-to-back championship wins.
“Everyone is excited to go there and play the guys,” says Crabtree. “We learned a lot the three days we were there last year. I’m anxious to go back and see how we compete this year. It’s pretty neat that we are so far apart, but have a chance to play a three game series as the last two national champions.”
For the MSC coaches an important trait of a successful team is the ability for the players to be a part of what they call the Aggie Family. For them a big part building a strong team is establishing strong bonds among the players. They say the memories…the road trips, good wins and tough losses… are what fuse the players into a team that is tough to break.
“That’s just the Aggie way,” says Associate Head Coach Lloyd Gage. “It’s the way we built it. When we recruit, we talk about becoming a part of the Aggie Family, not just a part of the baseball program. Nine months out of the year, they live side by side, they eat side by side, and they go to class side by side. They are constantly together, and I think that naturally brings a sense of family.”
Crabtree says he’s excited to see what kind of team the Aggies will become this year. He knows that in every contest, the Aggies will be getting the best out of their opponents.
“Like I told our guys, we’re all excited to see the team in the rankings, but it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish that matters,” says Crabtree. “We figured that out last year.”