New teams seek to repeat last year's success
Senior Trey Mays pushes past to make a basket against ENMU. Pam Belcher
The players are swinging the bats and breaking out the Rawlings gloves as ASU's softball and baseball teams prepare begin their official seasons on Friday, Feb. 1.
Both teams won the Lone Star Conference championship the previous season and will look to repeat as conference champions despite losing several key contributors their success.
Reigning Lone Star Conference MVP Elsamartina Apo will help the 'Belles out from the dugout as a graduate assistant instead of hitting in the batter's box.
Other notable graduates include the team's former staff ace Claire Molina and slugger DeeshanaLynn Tafiti, but one 'Belle is certain that the team can make up for their departed teammates.
"I feel like we don't have odds against us," junior Morgan Spearman said. "I feel like we have an equal amount of chance as we did last year and we're just as good if we focus and are mentally prepared."
Spearman said that she understood that the 'Belles had lost some very important players, but still believes that this new team can still bring home the trophy.
Head Coach Travis Scott has been here before though as he has won six Lone Star Conference championships going into his 10th season as the softball head coach at ASU and he's done it with a revolving door of players.
"Anytime you lose an Elsa Apo or Deeshana Tafiti or a Claire Molina; that's some big shoes." Scott said. "Those are great players and that's happened to us over the years."
The 'Belles have players ready to step in and contribute like freshman third baseman Lanie Robinson, who will take Apo's spot now, and pitchers like freshman Kacie Brann and junior Sandra Serna, who will pitch to fill Molina's role.
Scott said that ASU's success over the years and the program's reputation has been a key factor to the team's ability to recruit and continue to keep a contending team together year after year regardless of the players that graduate or transfer.
As for baseball, the Rams are fresh off of celebrating a celebration-filled 2012 season where they won 40 total games, went 20-8 in the Lone Star Conference, captured career win number 300 for Head Coach Kevin Brooks, and won the team's second conference championship in eight seasons.
The Rams won the Lone Star Conference in 2007 and went 51-20 over the season, but fell to 39-19 the following season.
In 2013, the Rams have another chance to bring back-to-back conference championships to ASU, but will be short five guys in their starting lineup since seniors Doug Snover, Brett Parsons, Zach Cohen, Toby Semler and Tate Allison graduated.
"On paper it looks like we're the same team, but we've got less than half of our starting lineup back from last year," Brooks said. "The four guys we do have back were really big contributors."
Those four would be seniors Quaid McKinnon, Andrew LaCombe, Lee Neumann, and Ryan Greer.
LaCombe is a team captain while the other three have won Lone Star Conference Hitter of the Week awards.
In order to win, Brooks said that the returning four have got to play better, and the five new players in the lineup have to contribute.
As for the bullpen, the Rams lost several senior pitchers; Matt Rechkemmer, Rick Reyna, Craig Blair, and Bren Schuehler.
However, there is one senior returning due to an injury the previous year and that is the other team captain senior Bryant Rutledge.
"After not being able to play last year and to be able to play on a team that won it last year and we have a really good chance to win it again this year," Rutledge said. "That's extremely exciting for me; to be able to continue on with my senior year after surgery."
Rutledge said the choice of him as captain does not put additional pressure on him but instead, he is going to continue to be a hard worker and to push his teammates.
Rutledge said that his surgery has not only healed his arm, but has in fact, made a few things better.
"My velocity has increased significantly," Rutledge said. "My changeup has gotten a lot better and those were tools I didn't have my first year pitching. I threw a lot of breaking balls in my first year and now I can work with all three of my pitches."
Both ASU teams are going through significant changes, but the goal and the destination hasn't changed at all and they are going to pursue them.
Rams open up their season against Oauchita Baptist with a noon doubleheader in Arkadelphia, Ark.
The 'Belles open up their season up in San Antonio, TX with a noon game against East Central University and a 4 p.m. game against St. Edwards University.
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