Baseball team looks to lean on experience in 2013
Scott Norwood, head coach for the UALR baseball team, said he is glad he will have 20 junior and senior players on his roster on opening day.
“We have the preseason conference pitcher of the year back and most of our arms are all back,” Norwood said. “We have a lot of returning experience.”
The UALR baseball team would like to repeat the success they enjoyed early last year when they went 12-3 in the first 15 games of the season.
The odds of the Trojans getting off to a good start are favorable because they will begin the season by playing 13 of their first 14 games at home at Gary Hogan Field; however, Norwood said playing at home has proven to be distracting for his players.
“Playing at home is always fun, you know? Sometimes it’s a little easier to go on the road so you can avoid distractions – you have a lot more control of what goes on,” Norwood said, “We need to take care of our business here and play the best we can.”
Norwood said some of the teams the Trojans will face at the beginning of the season are from northern sections of the United States, which means they may not practice outside as much as the Trojans. This could give UALR an advantage when the action begins Feb. 15 against the University of Evansville.
This will be the first time the Trojans hit the field without Sean Bignall, the former All-American standout who finished last season rewriting the record books at UALR. Besides breaking the UALR record for home runs (18) and total bases (149), Bignall finished fourth in the nation in home runs, fifth in slugging percentage (.696), fifth in total bases and sixth in RBI’s (64). The Trojans will need new players to step up and find a way to fill the void left by Bignall.
“Sean did a fantastic job for us and it will always be a great legacy that he left,” Norwood said. “The guys are going to step in and they’re going to do a good job because they don’t want to let down what he’s kind of helped to create.”
The Trojans will be counting on senior players like catcher Blake Johnson and utility man Myles Parma to pick up the slack.
Johnson finished last season learning the American Baseball Coaches Association named him to the first team of the 2012 All-South Central Region team and that he was also named a 2012 First Team All-Sun Belt Conference selection. Johnson finished the season with a .315 batting average, a .533 slugging percentage, 33 RBI’s and 30 runs scored.
At the end of last season, Parma was named a 2012 First Team All-Sun Belt Conference selection for his .292 batting average, 41 runs and 31 RBI’s.
The Trojans will count on pitchers like senior Chance Cleveland (RHP), red shirt senior Blake Huffman (RHP), freshman Chad Bradford (RHP) and freshman Corbin Carter (LHP) to throw strike outs and retain a low ERA.
At the end of last season, in addition to being named a 2012 First Team All-Sun Belt Conference selection, Cleveland finished with a 9-4 record in 14 starts and had a Sun-Belt best 98 strikeouts over the span of 91.2 innings.
Huffman finished the 2012 season with a 5-4 record and 70 strike outs over the span of 70.1 innings.
In addition to the usual Sun Belt Conference opponents, the Trojans will play in several non-conference games that will help ready them for postseason play. For the 2013 season, UALR will hit the road to face schools such as Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Creighton.
The Trojans will play nine games in 12 days to begin the new season, facing Evansville (Feb. 15-17), Louisiana Tech (Feb. 19), SIU Edwardsville (Feb. 22-24) and Oklahoma State (Feb. 26). The series against SIU Edwardsville will feature a double-header Feb. 23.