Baseball looks to bounce back

When spring weather begins to bring warmth and new weather emerges at the end of winter, so begins the season of baseball.
Truman State baseball has been practicing indoors for the past few months, and finally got a taste of warmer weather while taking to the field two weekends ago in Arkansas. The team has played only three games thus far during 2014, but they already have shed light on things to look for this season from the Bulldogs.
Returning this year for the ’Dogs are three of the team’s four most productive hitters from last season. Junior first baseman Paul Trenhaile batted .371, senior outfielder Will Nader batted .338 and redshirt junior centerfielder Corban Williams batted .320.
Williams won the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League Championship this summer with the North Jersey Eagles, and started 37 of the 40 games. Trenhaile played summer ball with the Chillicothe Mudcats in the MINK baseball league and led the team with a .434 batting average.
Despite losing their opening three games at Harding University, who had a 20-9 home record last season, the Bulldogs led all three games at one point and it was their first time playing on dirt and grass. Trenhaile said this first weekend offered a lot of positive notes to take away.
“The good thing was, the mistakes that were made were definitely first-weekend mistakes,” Trenhaile said. “You could tell we hadn’t been outside in a really long time, but one thing we learned from this weekend is that our pitching staff is capable of shutting down a good offense.”
Going from indoors to outdoors affects the way a player sees the ball off the bat, how the ball bounces in the grass and dirt and depth perception.
One of last season’s best starters, senior right-hander Tim Lee, returns as the team’s Ace, whose strongest pitch is his fastball. Lee started 10 games last season, tossing two complete games. Last season was Lee’s first full year of pitching during his career and he said this year his arm feels like it’s in great shape.
“It feels about 10 times better than it has before,” Lee said. “A lot of [my struggles] were with my mind game. Last year I wasn’t going out there and having fun, and that’s what baseball is all about.”
Also returning is sophomore right-hander Mark Roberts. Roberts tossed six complete innings against Harding, striking out four, giving up five hits and only allowing one earned run.  He most likely will be the No. 2 man in the rotation.
There are some changes Truman baseball is going through during 2014, as this will be their first season as part of the GLVC conference. The only team the Bulldogs saw last season they will play this year is Southwest Baptist University.
Another change comes from an NCAA rule change. This season, the NCAA is implementing new standards for bats that can be used. During 2011, the NCAA debuted a new standard for testing baseball bat performance, and this year they are making more changes to make the game safer and pure to the game of baseball by making the bats have less spring when the ball hits them, and a more wood-bat-type effect.
This means the NCAA changed what bats players could use because aluminum bats were producing too many runs off good pitchers.
Truman baseball head coach Dan Davis said the reason there are so many changes to bats is because of high offensive numbers.
“You have a 5-foot-9, 130-pound second baseman hitting 20 homeruns,” Davis said. “That’s not what the game’s about. It should be hard to score runs in baseball. As kids were becoming stronger and bigger, it became a different game.”
Now that these new rules are in place for the 2014 season and the Bulldogs find themselves in a new conference, 47 games lie between them and the GLVC tournament. As many solid pitching arms and consistently good bats return to the team this year, Truman is looking to have its first winning season since 1982 and its first 20-win season since 1999.
The Bulldogs’ first home game will be against University of Wisconsin-Parkside Saturday, March 15.

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