CHICKASHA – The Drovers’ strong start this season led to the school’s first back-to-back winning seasons for the baseball team.

Head Coach Mike Ross said he has mixed emotions about the 2010 season.

“It’s tough to say. We were very disappointed that it didn’t turn out as good as we thought,” he said. “But when you look back at it, we still had the third best season in school history.”

USAO ended the season 28-20 overall, 13-17 in the conference and 15-3 in non-conference games. They follow at 37-14 season in 2009 — the best in school history.

The Drovers won their first nine games before meeting up with their first conference opponent — and Sooner Athletic Conference regular season champions — Lubbock Christian. USAO took one from the Chaps and went on to go 6-6 against the conference’s four toughest opponents: LCU, Oklahoma City, Southern Nazarene and Wayland Baptist. It was one of the Drovers’ strongest records against those four opponents.

Despite the strong start, the Drovers’ conference struggles later in the season kept them out of the conference tournament.

“I thought the kids played hard, battled hard … and in the end, they didn’t (overcome),” Ross said. “That’s the way it is in our conference. You have to be ready to play everyday.”

He said the team’s biggest challenge was pitching. While the pitchers did their best on the mound, he said, there was a lack of depth — something Ross takes responsibility for.

“In the end, that’s what really cost us,” he said. “When you get down the nitty gritty that kept us out of the tournament.”

Ross added that the pitching was particularly strong in the last few weeks. Junior pitcher Caleb Martin won his last four conference games.

The recruiting process is really just beginning for Ross, he said, but they’ve already signed six players to the team.

“I like the people coming in. … There’s still a lot of recruiting left to be done,” he said. “Obviously, I plan on being better (next year) than we’ve ever been.”

He said he wants to thank the fans and everyone who supported the team throughout the season and said is proud of his first season as head coach, despite some disappointments.

“I’m happy with it, but I’m dissatisfied. I expect more out of myself, my coaching staff and our players. I’m proud of what they did, but in the end not extremely happy with it.”

He added that none of the players or coaches let him down, but that he has big shoes to fill following the legacy left by Coach L.J. Powell and the Drovers best record in 2009.

“That season was going to be hard to live up to,” he said.

Published: May 14, 2010