NAIA Preseason Baseball Polls Place Pilots at No.14 in the Country
December 07, 2005
Shreveport, LA---With the performance by the first year LSUS Women’s Soccer Team in the fall of 2005 who competed in a Gulf Coast Athletic Conference championship and also advanced to their first Region XIII Tournament, and the emergence of a combined 18-2 start for the Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams, it would be easy for Pilot fans to have baseball in the back of their minds. But behind the scenes of the current success on the soccer field and basketball court LSUS has had in the 2005 fall semester, the LSUS Pilots baseball program has added to that success with an NAIA Preseason Ranking of No. 14.
The Pilots collected a 43-21 overall record in 2005 after bowing out in the Region XIII championship game in front of a capacity crowd at Pilot Field to the Lee University Flames. Head Coach Rocke Musgraves and his Pilots quickly began preparing for the 2006 season, and after graduating just four seniors, the core of the 2005 GCAC Regular Season Championship club has returned for what Coach Musgraves believes could be the best season at LSUS.
“We lost four seniors last year who were big contributors to our success last season. It is hard to replace a Derek Cunningham who earned the GCAC Pitcher of the Year award, and a first baseman the caliber of Kyle Mace, but we have developed a lot of young arms and hitters over the past couple years who are ready to step up and fill those spots,” comments Musgraves.
The Pilots will look toward Tyler Lewis and Kevin Jewell to carry the bulk of the load on the mound in 2006. Lewis, a 6’1 right hander has accumulated a 6-9 overall record through his junior year, but has progressed into a powerful pitcher who has gained command of three pitches which pitching coach Andy Heckman believes will make Lewis a dominating pitcher in the GCAC.
“Tyler has come a long way since his freshman year. He is our best athlete on the mound and has pitched at 90+ mph throughout the fall. With some confidence, I believe he will become more consistent which could make him a dominating arm at this level,” concluded Heckman of Lewis.
In addition to Lewis, the Pilots are very excited about the return of Jewell, a junior left-hander from Alamogordo, NM who has collected a 16-5 record through his sophomore season as a weekend conference starter for the Pilots.
“Jewell is a big game pitcher who wants to have the ball every night. His athleticism and competitiveness along with his pitching ability makes him very tough to beat. He will be looked upon to pitch in the big games for this season which gives us a lot of confidence in our staff,” said Musgraves of Jewell.
While the Pilots are confident in their pitching staff they have assembled for the 2006 season, the Pilot offense has potential to put up some very impressive numbers at the plate. Dustin Bissonnette returns for his senior year after being selected the GCAC Player of the Year in 2005. Bissonnette eclipsed the LSUS All-Time single season hit record in ’05 with 99 base hits on route to a team leading .444 batting average.
“Bissonnette has the best approach at the plate that I have ever seen, including better than some players I have had who are currently playing professional baseball,” comments Musgraves of Bissonnette.
In addition to the return of Bissonnette, the Pilots are very excited about the return of homerun and RBI leader Dusty Maddox. The starting center fielder belted 11-homeruns and 65-RBI in the ’05 season and was selected to the 1st-Team All-GCAC and Region XIII lists. The fleet footed senior also swiped 29 stolen bases in 31 attempts, and is capable of even greater numbers his senior season believes Musgraves.
“There is no question that Dusty carried the load for part of the season last year. He played through injuries and still managed to have a very successful season. Barring injuries this year, I believe he will show he is hands down the best athlete in the GCAC, and among the best in the state of Louisiana.”
The Pilots will also introduce Tyler Williams to the GCAC. The 6’0 senior right fielder from the University of Missouri will solidify the Pilot outfield as well as hit in the middle of the lineup with his Big 12 experience and skills.
“Tyler is the total package. He can hit, run, play defense, and throw which is a rare combination at this level. He will bring Division I experience to our lineup and has potential to put up some very impressive numbers this season,” says Musgraves of Williams.
The Pilots will have a chance to put their talent to the test from day one as they will begin the 2006 season versus the No.9 seeded Lubbock Christian University Chaps. The two teams will square off in a three game series beginning February 2nd, 2006 at Pilot Field. The Pilots will then have to regroup for a three game set versus yet another Top-10 team in Spaulding University beginning February 9th, 2006.
LSUS also features No.13 Houston Baptist University, No.32 University of Mobile, NCAA Division I opponent Central Arkansas University, and NCAA Division II opponents Southern Arkansas University and Henderson State University in there highly competitive 2006 schedule.
“I think our schedule shows that we are ready to play any team, any where and expect to be highly competitive against those teams. That type of attitude carries over to your players which you hope prepares you for a successful postseason. I believe we are deserving of the No.14 ranking but we will have to prove it come February 2nd,” concludes Musgraves.