This year, the Rams have a shot at the Avista-NAIA World Series, giving Texas Wesleyan a chance at another national championship.
The Rams won two of three games in a series with Mid-America Christian University Friday and Saturday to close the regular season with a 19-8 Sooner Athletic Conference record and a 34-14 overall record, according to ramsports.net.
Wesleyan is seeded third in the upcoming SAC tournament; the team plays a quarterfinal game 2:30 p.m. Friday against Oklahoma Panhandle State University in Oklahoma.
“At one point, we had four teams ranked in the top 25; just to get through the conference itself is a grueling task, [and] to finish third is pretty impressive,” interim head coach Robert Garza said. “[For now] we hope to get to the conference championship game.”
The team started off the season somewhat handicapped, said junior pitcher Parker Robinson. There were several players unable to return, creating a shorter pitching staff.
The Rams also suffered an abrupt change in management halfway through the season when head coach Mike Jeffcoat was fired due to a controversial email to a Colorado player.
Moving past those tribulations, Garza credits the team’s success to adaptability and tenacious leading players being able to inspire the rest of the line-up.
“We learned how to deal with adversity with the change in leadership,” Garza said, noting that new players had to come in and step up. “We learned how to be versatile in our roles from changing one position to another position. And I think we created some players that really got to see they were strong leaders.”
Robinson emphasized that the Rams will have to play their best baseball to be successful in the SAC tournament.
“[From here going forward] we act like every team is the same—number on in the nation,” Robinson, an exercise major, said. “If we [slack off a little] and end up taking some [teams] lightly, it could end up coming back and biting us, and we may end up going home earlier than we should.”
This season, Robinson garnered 33 strike-outs with an ERA of 4.58 and a record of 4-1, according to ramsports.net. He has played with Wesleyan since 2016.
While the Rams worked hard in the conference to outdo their competitors while improving themselves, Robinson said post-season play will have little room for learning from mistakes.
“At this point, it’s working with what we’ve got,” he said. “We just need to strive to get better at what we need to do better and just focus on getting hot at the right time, and the right time is now.”
Pitcher Brad Sugg said that even though the conference tournament is what’s directly in front of the Rams, getting to the regionals of the NAIA National Tournament Opening Round is the major goal for a lot of players, especially the returning ones who were sent home from the NAIA tournament after losing to William Carey University last year. It was their fourth game in the regionals.
The NAIA opening round starts May 14, according to ramsports.net.
Sugg said the team has confidence and knows exactly what they need to get past the conference tournament.
“I think we’re pretty confident,” said Sugg, who came to Wesleyan last year and had a 9-1 record with 64 strikeouts and a 3.32 ERA this year. “You can never take a team lightly, because they’re on the same goal as us. We’re all playing to get that guarantee that you’re going [to the regionals]. That first game is key, you get the first one, you get the rest of the day off. You don’t win the first one, you gotta play again.
“Just all around, I’d say [doing] the little things [will give us wins],” Sugg continued. “Say for example, making the right pitch, keeping the ball down, having a team at bat rather than an individual, it’s [screwing up] the little things that make you lose games.”
Garza reiterated the “little things” philosophy and that the team will have confidence moving past normal season play.
“Each day we’re looking for opportunities to do better,” Garza said. “If we’re able to take care of the minor details, we have a really good chance of being successful post-season. Last year we were [at the conference tournament], so we have some returners that have experience. But, ultimately, we have a mature group. We’ve worked hard to create an environment throughout practice and games to allow them to feel [ready] for any situation.”