Texas Wesleyan University may receive yet another national title this season courtesy of the baseball team.
Last year, the Rams won the Sooner Athletic Conference (SAC) regular season title with a conference record of 19-5 before being knocked out of the conference tournament via a loss to Wayland Baptist University, according to ramsports.net.
“Unfortunately, when we got to the post season tournament out in the opening round, we had some people with sore arms in our pitching staff,” said head coach Mike Jeffcoat, “and we didn’t play well as we had played earlier in the season and we had came up short.”
But this year, with an overall record of 32-11 and a conference record of 13-5, the team has a good chance of going beyond winning the SAC.
“We haven’t beat ourselves very often,” Jeffcoat said. “We did some things to beat ourselves, either didn’t execute offensive plays or did not play good defense or pitch well. Your walking batters, hitting batters – but so far, we’ve done a very good job of playing fundamental baseball.”
The team is No. 2 in the SAC standings and 16th in NAIA’s Division I. The SAC tournament is May 5-8; the NAIA National Tournament Opening Round is May 16-19, followed by the NAIA World Series on May 26 to June 2 in Lewiston, Idaho, according to rampsorts.net.
Jeffcoat feels this year’s players are dedicated to getting as far as they can in the season, and perhaps securing a title.
“I think we got a core group of guys who are not just satisfied at winning more than what we lose. But ya know, actually trying to go deep into the post season,” Jeffcoat said. “Could this year’s team do it? Ya know, they have the potential. Hopefully, our hitters will continue to swing the bats well and improve, and the pitching staff will continue to improve with each week; [it] really gives the team a chance to gel in post-season play.”
Senior right hand pitcher Alex Lopez, who was named SAC Pitcher of the Week on Feb. 27 and on March 5 said the batters are a greatest strength of the team.
“It’s a lot easier to have fun when you’re winning versus when you’re losing, for sure,” Lopez said. “Right now, I think our offense is a lot better than it was last year. We got one through eight hitting over .300, that’s really good, even for a college lineup. We got guys that are gonna wanna swing the bat and really do some damage with guys on [or off] base.”
Lopez said the pitching staff isn’t perfect, but like the batters, does a great job as well.
“I think for the pitching staff, we’ve been walking too many guys, a lot of the runs we’ve given up have come off walks or hits by pitches,” he said. “Even if the guys are gonna get hit, you’d rather them score with them earning it by getting hits versus giving them a free base with walks.
“We don’t have a ton of strike-out power right now, but when we [do] fill up the zone and throw a lot of strikes, we have a really good staff. What we do is get guys out. We have a really good defense and they do a great job behind us.”
Some of Wesleyan’s success is owed to new faces. Jeffcoat said senior third baseman Luis Roman, junior outfielder Kiki Menendez, junior second baseman and right hand pitcher Caden Williams, and junior right hand pitcher Brad Sugg are all new players this year that are doing well.
Roman, who’s from Keiser University in Florida, had to readjust himself as player when he came to Wesleyan.
“Last semester, before coming to Texas Wesleyan, I was hitter, then became a pitcher only because I wasn’t hitting like I was hitting this year,” Ramon said. “That was a really big obstacle, trying to bounce back – and I’m happy that it’s [worked out].”
Like Jeffcoat and his fellow players, Roman has faith in the team going far this year.
“We have the team, we have everything that it takes to get there,” Roman said. “We have really good pitching, we have really good hitting, we have a great defense, and the big deal is that we can hit. Our lineup is just really good, one through nine is great hitters. I think we’re very capable of going to the World Series.”
The Rams’ next home game is against Southwestern Christian University at Sycamore Park at 3 p.m. on Friday.