CHICKASHA – Bringing back some key players and filling spots with new faces — freshmen and transfers alike — the 2012 Drover baseball team is set and ready for a strong spring.
“I’m pretty excited about it. I think we have a good club. It’s probably one of the better clubs we’ve had in the last few years,” head coach Mike Ross said. “For the most part, everyone is excited, and we’re ready to get started.”
The Drovers open the season this weekend on the road in Tyler, Texas. They return to Chickasha for their first home series against Friends University with games at 1 and 3 p.m. Feb. 5 and noon Feb. 6.
Ross remains confident in his team as it compares preseason to USAO’s recent past.
“Honestly looking at it from last year’s perspective, I don’t see a big drop off in any area. I think we’re stronger in most areas,” he said. “Depth of the pitching staff is as good as I think we’ve ever had.”
While the Drovers graduated career wins and strikeout leader Caleb Martin last season, USAO will return starter David Garcia and relief pitcher Josh Goodman.
“They are going to be counted on for quite a few innings because Sooner Athletic Conference experience goes a long way, so having those two guys will really help on the pitching side,” Ross said.
In addition to Garcia and Goodman, Ross has some new pitchers he is excited about seeing in action. Some of new faces on the mound will include Eddie Cervantes, Blake McMullen, Simon Mitchell, Kevin Schultz, Clinton Selman, Seth Sturgeon and Adam Wilson.
“Really, I’m excited about the whole pitching staff,” Ross said. “There are a lot of new faces on that side of it. They’ve all done a really good job. I’m still not sure who our conference starters will be.”
As for hitting, Ross said he will continue to count on centerfielder Romus Cezar to be the lead off hitter and get some key stolen bases. Also, coaches are looking at senior Brandon Jewett, who led the team last season with 11 home runs and 45 runners batted in.
“Jewett is another guy we’re going to count on to hit in the middle of the lineup and solidify the lineup,” Ross said.
Second baseman Robert Summers will return for his third year with the Drovers and is a player coaches say they are “looking for a big year” out of.
Spitting time behind home base will be returning catcher Blake Taylor and redshirt freshman Owen Adams.
“It will give Taylor some much-needed time off,” Ross said. “We think he’ll have a good year this year.”
Filling in some empty spots infield will be transfer students Heath Wilda, a third baseman from Oklahoma State, and Konrad Mueller, a shortstop from Santa Fe, N.M. Zach Gonzalez, out of Northern Oklahoma College in Tonkawa, will fill in at first base.
“Gonzalez has a chance to be pretty good,” Ross noted.
Ross expects to put McNeese State transfer Jared Coon near the top of the lineup and at left field and Brian Vigo-Suaréz from Vernon Junior College in right field.
Fans will see a familiar face joining the coaching staff this season as Regulo Moy, a recent USAO graduate, will help lead the Drovers along with Ross, assistant coach Matt Hibbitts and student assistant Seth Park.
Last season, the Drovers played three games in the Sooner Athletic Conference tournament, but the goal for 2012 is to push beyond that and earn a spot in the national tournament.
“To make the conference tournament and then the national tournament are always our main goals every year,” Ross said. “This season will be no different.”