GEORGETOWN, Texas - The Southwestern University Baseball team begins a new year and a new season under a new head coach. After coaching for Hendrix for six years, Coach RJ Thomas is now in his first year with Southwestern. Now that he will coach new players this season, he has strong belief in the talent this team possesses and confidence in what they can accomplish.
In building that team chemistry, returning seniors Jay Sterling, Charlie Garrett, Ross Meyer, Lance Gottardy, Marc Brace, Jeff Glasgow, and Josh Presnall are back to develop their leadership skills and talent.
Last season, infielder Garrett recorded 24 hits with 2 doubles and one triple. He drew 19 walks, stole 4 bases, and batted in 7 runs. On the field, he recorded 74 putouts and a team high 88 assists for a .926 fielding percentage. Catcher/infielder Gottardy had a batting average of .271 last season, which was fifth best on the team. He recorded 2 doubles, 15 walks, and scored 10 runs. His .391 on-base percentage was second highest on the team. First baseman Glasgow had the second highest batting average for the Pirates in 2012 (.277). He had 9 doubles, one triple, and four homers, which was second on the team. He led the team in slugging percentage with a .505 and was third on the team in on-base percentage (.378). On the field, he was second on the team with putouts (128) and fielding percentage (.973).
Eight juniors will also return to the field, such as Zachary Lynch, who was fifth on the team with 104 at-bats. He had 26 hits with 9 doubles, 15 RBIs, and scored 17 runs. He led the Pirates with 164 putouts his sophomore year. For the sophomores that are returning, Colby Dutton has numbers that have consideration of this team going in the right direction. Last spring, in 80 at-bats he recorded 19 hits and 10 RBIs. Behind the plate, he had 120 putouts and 28 assists for a .987 fielding percentage. Dutton also led the conference catchers in runners caught stealing. Sophomore transfer Nino Tutino could also benefit this team. Prior to this season, Tutino played one year at Hendrix under Coach Thomas. That should give a slight advantage to the players understanding the expectations under their new coach. In addition, the Pirates will also have 11 first-years that are new to the team.
"We have a lot of talentand we are gaining confidence. Confidence and trust are tough when you've had the last couple of years [the Pirates] had and you have a new coaching staff coming in. They're learning to trust each other and at the same time learning to trust me. That opening weekend against Schreiner will be big in the development of this team and tell us a lot. ", stated Coach Thomas. "We have a lot of guys that can do a lot of things really well, we just have to put it all together. And it starts with them just learning to trust each other and that will take time."
The Pirates will open the 2013 season at home to Schreiner on Friday, February 1st,, and plays a doubleheader against them the next day. There, Coach Thomas will observe, test and examine his players on their strengths and weaknesses to helping this team achieve success.
"[The coaching staff] wants effort and attitude. If you come to the park every day with good effort and want to be there, those are the two biggest things that we can ask. Those are the only two things that you can control: how hard are you going to work, and are you going to be the right guy when you're at the field", Coach Thomas answered. "If our guys bring that, we think we can be pretty special."
In response to being successful, he will also get attempts to help the Pirates make the postseason for the first time since 2008. Last season, the Pirates finished 11-27 and fell short of making the SCAC Baseball Tournament. When asked about whether he was motivated about getting this team into the postseason as a coach for his first year at SU, he answered what most coaches' goals are: "absolutely" with clarification.
"Absolutely. That's our goal every year," Coach Thomas said. "We do have the advantage this year with the change in conference and only having five teams where everybody makes the tournament, so we have already broken that. So Southwestern will be in the tournament in 2013. But our goal is to finish in the top three. That's what it's been to make the conference tournament in the past, and that's where our goal is this year. We want to be in the top three of the conference. And that's your goal every year. You want to be in that top three and hopefully, it comes down to that last weekend and you're playing for that regular season conference championship."