Pilots Baseball continues athletic success at LSUS with 2005 GCAC Championship
April 18, 2005
Shreveport, LA---After a disappointing 3-1 loss in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Championship final versus the Belhaven College Blazers in 2004, the #12 LSUS Pilots were chomping at the bit to erase the bitter memories of what could have been. With the additions of senior transfer from Arkansas State University Derek Cunningham, Bossier Parish Community College’s Dusty Maddox, the emergence of the GCAC’s leading hitter Dustin Bissonnette, and the return of 6’4 left handed pitcher Frank Kowatz a year after surgery who has compiled a 6-1 record thus far, the Pilots have accumulated a 36-10 record and have clinched their first ever GCAC Championship with six games remaining in the regular season schedule.
“We have put together a group who have created and believe in their teams goals. They have been able to shift into a higher gear when a competitive situation presents itself which shows the character of this group; character is not something you can teach as a coach,” comments Pilots head coach Rocke Musgraves of his 2005 squad. With a 36-10 record to date this season, Musgraves has accumulated a 219-142 record since taking the head position at LSUS in 2000.
Kyle Mace lifted a deep fly ball to center field to score Dutin Bissonnette from third base to put the Pilots ahead 11-1 and enforcing the 10 run mercy rule versus the University of Mobile Rams (30-18) to complete a three game series sweep and put the Pilots six games ahead of the second place Rams, to clinch the GCAC regular season title.
“Winning is a habit. Winning a conference championship is a great accomplishment and is something that these guys will always remember. But this is only the first step. Now we start a whole new season and need to continue to make winning a habit and win some big games,” comments Musgraves. The Pilots next “big game” will come Tuesday afternoon in the form of the #3 Houston Baptist Huskies (34-5). The #12 Pilots will play host to the Huskies in a double-header starting at 4:00pm at Pilot Field.
By virtue of winning the GCAC regular season championship, the Pilots have earned the right to host the Region XIII tournament which will begin May 11th-14th. Shreveport will have the privilege of witnessing 8 of the top NAIA baseball teams in the country battle for the crown of Region XIII champion, and to earn the right to advance to a Super Regional Tournament May 18-20, which is all that will stand in the way of two teams and the NAIA World Series. “The regional will give us a chance to face the best. Big time players show up for the big time games, and that is why I like our chances,” concludes Musgraves.
In 2005, the Pilots junior second baseman Dustin Bissonnette has emerged as a GCAC player of the year candidate. Bissonnette is leading the GCAC with a .437 batting average which includes 69 hits, 44 RBI, 20 stolen bases, and only 17 strikeouts in 158 at bats. “Bissonnette is the motor that keeps our offense going. Whether we need a lead off guy on, or a two out hit to score a run, he has got it done day in and day out,” comments Pilot assistant coach Andy Heckman.
In addition to Bissonnette, the Pilots lead off hitter Dusty Maddox leads the GCAC in homeruns with 10 and RBI with 54. Maddox’s .401 batting average and 24 stolen bases has opponents cringing to see the top of the Pilots order come to the plate. “Working together as a team has been the key to our success this year. Our team first approach combined with the hitters we have and their ability to play small ball when we need to has contributed to a well rounded offense that shows up everyday, “ comments Maddox. “The combination of our offense and our pitching staff makes us tough to beat. Cunningham sets the bar for our pitchers with his mental toughness and competitiveness. Kowatz has also become a perfect team pitcher; he throws strikes and uses his defense.”
The Pilots have combined Cunningham (7-1, 2.16ERA), Kowatz (6-1, 2.96ERA), and Kevin Jewell, a 5’10 left handed pitcher from Alamogordo, NM (7-1, 5.16ERA) as their three game conference starting rotation. “The key to out staff is that we consistently don’t beat ourselves. Each guy takes care of his job. Cunningham has been our leader. His composure, aggressiveness, mound presence, and ability to pound the strike zone makes him a great example for our younger arms to follow,” concludes Heckman.
With the continued success on the baseball field and the recent success by the LSUS men’s basketball team who captured a 2005 GCAC regular season championship and experienced their first taste of the NAIA national tournament in March where they advanced to the sweet-sixteen before dropping a 5 point decision to the 2005 NAIA national champion John Brown University, some much deserved credit must be given to LSUS Athletic Director Doug Robinson who took over the position in 2002. “Doug Robinson gives us all the resources within his power in order for us to be successful. He always has our back and continues to find ways to contribute to the success of our athletics department,” boasts Musgraves of Robinson.
When asked about the recent success in athletics at LSUS, Robinson concluded that “when you surround yourself with good people, good things happen. It all starts with the Chancelor and Vice Chancellors and carries on down through to the coaching staff.”
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