FIRST PITCH TONIGHT: LSUS VS LUBBOCK CHRISTIAN: BY CHRISSY CHIRI
February 02, 2006
It’s true that preseason polls don’t count for anything because they are just that – preseason. However, it’s better to be ranked than not and the LSUS Pilots baseball team are glad to be in the group.
The Pilots, who will throw their first pitch of the season tonight at 6:30 p.m., were placed fourteenth in the nation in the preseason NAIA polls. The team, which is coming off a 43-21 record last season, advanced to the regional tournament in the playoffs but were defeated by Lee University to end their season in the double-elimination tournament.
Tonight they will take on Lubbock Christian University at LSUS and hope to get off to a winning record. Conference play is right around the corner as well, beginning on Feb. 24.
Offensively the Pilots are counting on being just as strong as last year with threats like Dusty Maddox and Dustin Bissonnette at the plate. Maddox and Bissonnette were both named to the All-Region team last year, and Bissonnette was the Gulf Coast Atlantic Conference Player of the Year. He also broke the LSUS hit record by totaling 99.
“I feel good at the plate right now, and I think I’ve gotten smarter mentally. I’m looking forward to playing this year again,” Bissonnette, a senior financial analysis major said.
Bryan Cooksey and Riley Cook are also being counted on for offensive production and to be strong on defense. Shortstop Brandon Magierowski will be looked upon for his outstanding defensive presence and new player Tyler Williams is a positive addition to the squad.
“We look real good in the outfield and have our infield rounded out with some great guys, so we should we be good defensively, as well as at the plate. We’ve got a nice line-up,” head coach Rocke Musgraves said.
Like most baseball teams, whether it be in high school, college or the major leagues, pitching is always an area that could use improvement. But the Pilots are hoping they have enough of it this year to take them back to the World Series where they were three years ago.
“We’re just not road-tested yet,” Musgraves said about his pitching staff. “We don’t have a lot of experience on the mound.”
Returners Kevin Jewell, Tyler Lewis and Luis Roberts will need to have good outings as pitchers. Daniel Welch, who pitched for his team as a freshman in the World Series, will be back this year after sitting out a year on a medical redshirt due to having Tommy John surgery. Along with the returnees, Northeast Texas Community College transfer Matt Clayman is ready to step up and give his team some good innings off the mound.
“I think we have the ability to be ranked higher than we are if the pitchers step up to the challenge of a national championship. We have to be consistent, but we have an unbelievable team,” Clayman, a junior mass communication major said.
Closer Kris Marks will need to have good innings and finish up what his starters have begun as well.
If the Pilots can get their usual offensive production, good defense and strong pitching, then their preseason rankings will become a fact and not just an estimation.