By Josh Brown, Sports Editor
The World Series and Major League Baseball might have ended at the end of October, but Bulldogs baseball is right around the corner. The Bulldogs are gearing up for the 2012 season behind a team of familiar players.
This year’s team has 12 seniors returning and only four new freshmen. Head coach Brent Fronabarger said returning so many players is something that will be an advantage going into the season.
“Basically every guy we have returned has played a bunch in his career,” Fronabarger said. “It is a good thing, returning so many guys with experience. From a leadership standpoint, (the seniors) know the game and what we expect from (the team).”
Expectations are high for the 2012 Bulldogs, just as they are every season. Last year, the Bulldogs were TranSouth Tournament Champions, but lost in the opening round of the NAIA National Championship. Several players said losing in that first round has produced a drive to go further this season.
“It left us unsatisfied and put a bad taste in our mouths,” said Benjie Fesmire, junior business major. “Everybody wants it now more than ever.”
Cody Dew, senior history major, added that “this year (the team is) more focused on what it is going to take to get over the hump and get to that next level, to the World Series. Coming up a bit short (last season) has given us more of a push this year.”
Last year’s team had only five seniors on the roster. However, that push will be sparked by a senior class of 12 this season, who will bring experience and leadership.
Fronabarger said several of the returning seniors have played every game since their freshmen year, and he expects them to continue to step up every day.
“The leadership is there,” Dew said. “The younger guys see that everybody is working hard, and they gravitate toward that. We know we pretty much set the tone for what is to be expected.”
Fesmire added, “When you have a lot of seniors that have been here and know what is going on, everybody follows them and it goes smoother.”
According to Fronabarger, the talent is there this season as well. The Bulldogs have added more pitchers this year, which he said provides more depth to the team overall.
Several Bulldog pitchers were injury-riddled toward the end of last season and replacements were often a challenge, but Fesmire said because the pitching is deeper this year, “there are more guys who can step in” if injuries plague the team.
From a senior’s viewpoint, this is obviously the last season of their college career, and the last time to take the field with a team they have been a part of for the past three years. Dew said that as a senior, he wants to look back on this season with no regrets on how it ended.
“The ultimate goal is to get to the World Series, and we are talented enough to,” Dew said. “I don’t want come up short and say ‘what if?’ I want to play the best I can and leave at the end of the year with no doubt in my mind that I did the best I could do.”