The Truman State University baseball team hopes to improve after ending last season 7-33.
Though the team is facing a tough schedule again this year, according to senior starting pitcher Connor McKenna, they are hopeful this year will be better.
McKenna said it wasn’t the season the team wanted to have. It was a young team, and because they started 0-20, there’s not really one specific issue they’ve been able to point to — it was a whole-team issue.
“It just kind of seemed like nothing ever matched up, like there would be games that we would score some runs, but those were the games that the pitching really didn’t show up, and then we also had a lot of games where we pitched it pretty well, only gave up a few, but the offense just never got anything going, so it was a full team failure I guess you could say in those first 20 games,” McKenna said.
As the season progressed, the team began to figure it out and win some games, giving them a good feeling about the upcoming season, head coach Dan Davis said.
Davis attributed the losses to a young pitching staff.
“We just took some lumps last year and decided it would help us in the future, and we just stuck with those guys throughout the year and hopefully that experience helps us and pays off for us this year,” Davis said.
“At the end of the day, we just didn’t succeed in the first half of the season and got off to a tough start, and it kind of barrel rolled on us,” Davis said. “But we’ve been through the battles and stuff, and the guys are a year older. We’ve added a couple of guys here and there who are going to help us. I have high expectations for this year.”
Senior catcher Jacob Schneider shared the sentiment of his teammate and coach about last season, and said the team didn’t finish with the record they would have liked.
At the same time, it was a younger team, and they faced some tough teams at the beginning of the season, McKenna said. The team also struggled to hold on to leads and often ended up giving them away toward the end of the game, McKenna said.
McKenna said he thought the momentum they picked up at the end of the season, and their ability not to completely give up after a rough start, was a positive thing they could take into this upcoming season, especially since so many players are returning.
The issues from last year have motivated the team instead of discouraging them this year, and that has helped them this fall to work hard. McKenna said they did better this fall than they have at any point in his time on the team.
“We definitely learned as a group, we just have to, everybody kind of has to be bought in. There’s not a day that we’re going to go out on the field and probably be the more talented team to the degree that somebody will just roll over, and we’ll be able to win if we don’t give our best effort or don’t show up or anything like that,” McKenna said. “And we know that, so that’s a good lesson for sure for this year, to know that we have to come out and really show up, play our best game, do all that to have a successful year.”
Schneider also said the team has committed to a change and thinks the on-field product will improve this season.
The team has created a more competitive environment, Schneider said, and has more communication and pride in their work.
“I think this year we’re seeing a lot more guys take pride in what they do on a day-to-day basis,” Schneider said.
The goal for this year is to make the postseason and compete for the national championship, Davis said. The team wasn’t necessarily at that level yet but was taking a step in the right direction, he said.
McKenna said his personal goal was to give his team the chance to win every time he goes out on the mound. The team goal was to capitalize on situations where they have the opportunity to score.
“I think the most important way that the team dynamic has changed is … guys are a lot more bought in, like nobody wants to go out and do what we did last year … that was not fun … more guys now realize that if they aren’t all in on what the coaches are saying, really being a member of the team, working toward those team goals, then it’s gonna happen again so everybody just needs to be on the same page, working toward the same thing, not worrying about the individual numbers or doing the best thing for you. It’s about doing your job to put your team in a position to win,” McKenna said.
This year there are some players who can do multiple things offensively and have both speed and power, Davis said. The offense will likely be their strength, according to Davis.
The team will have to work on defense and commanding the strike zone, Davis said.
A few players to watch are Brennan Perkins, who was injured but is back in the lineup, Holden Missey who has been a top hitter the past three years, Simon Murray, Will Fromm and Connor McKenna.
Overall, Davis said he thinks this season could be a very athletic and fun team to watch.
“You know we’ve talked about our potential for a long time, and the last two or three years we’ve had a lot of potential, and we haven’t lived up to it,” Davis said. “So I think that’s the one thing I want to see out of our guys is living up to potential and when it really counts.”
“I think this year’s team is the most talented team I’ve been on in the five years that I’ve been here. There were some other years that probably rivaled this year, but I think that this year we’re the deepest that I’ve seen since … and so I’m just excited that this year we’re going to play a little bit more cohesive ball together and kind of see where that takes us,” Schneider said.
“I’m glad that this year should be a little bit of a different year than last year … when you look at last year, it’s just kind of a disappointing mark on all of our time and experience here, and so it’s a motivating factor to kind of prove that’s not really who we are,” Schneider said.
The season will start with a four-game away series against Christian Brothers College starting Feb. 12.