‘Breds begin early preparations for still distant season

The ‘Breds finished last season with a 22-33 record. They went 8-9 against OVC teams, good for a ninthplace finish in the conference. || Jaci Kohn/The News

The ‘Breds finished last season with a 22-33 record. They went 8-9 against OVC teams, good for a ninthplace finish in the conference. || Jaci Kohn/The News

‘Breds baseball is using the fall months to prepare for the upcoming spring season.

Head Coach Rob McDonald said the team will practice in the fall through the month of October.

“Pretty much up until now we have been in our small group skills work,” he said. “That is a lot of individual skills, hitting, fielding throwing, just a lot of individual skills. This past Friday we started real practice.”

The team spends much of its practice time honing in on individuals. Having all the basic skills under control is important to McDonald.

“To be good, the guys have to know how to catch and hit and throw and field and pitch,” he said. “If they cannot do that then it does not matter much if they know what to do on a first and third situation or a bunt situation. The most important thing is to be able to pick it up and throw it, hit it or catch it.”

The team is adjusting to six incoming freshmen and McDonald said he thinks they are fitting in well.

“They are another good group of quality kids,” he said. “They are working hard; they are trying things that are new. A lot of them have not spent much time in the weight room and we work really hard in the weight room. It’s a new thing to them but they are all embracing it and they know it’s going to make them better.”

McDonald said it would be too early to talk specifics on how his new players are standing out, but overall, he said he is very pleased with how his returning players are practicing.

“One of the first things I have noticed this fall was some of the improvements,” McDonald said. “It seems like some of the mechanical improvements we have been working on – over sometimes the past few years – have improved over the summer. They came back ready to go and that is important. I know we are going to have good veteran leadership.”

Everything is going well for the team. They are just hoping for good weather so they can continue to prepare.

“The guys have enthusiasm and they need to keep that,” he said. “It is easy to have enthusiasm in the first few days of practice. We will see how they will handle things a few weeks into it and see if they are still as energetic, hopefully they will be.

“I feel good about the guys that we have. They are working very hard. We will know a lot more at the end of the fall with some of the adjustments some of the guys make, how good we are going to be.”

Last season the ‘Breds missed the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament. They finished the season ninth in the OVC. McDonald said every year they feel like they have a chance to make the tournament. However they are not looking that far ahead right now.

“We are trying to look at just day to day and getting guys better and getting them ready to play Division-1 baseball,” he said.

Senior right-hand pitcher Will Handlin is looking forward to competing and having the camaraderie with his teammates.

“Right now we’re getting our arms back in shape,” Handlin said. “We had our first inter-squad (game) and were working on game and our pitches.

Last year the ‘Breds had the talent to do great things but injuries hampered the team. This year, however, Handlin said they have improved their depth.

“We have got a lot of hard-nosed guys,”?he said. “They all want to get a piece of playing time and do their best. So there is a lot of competition.”

Last year the team won the OVC Team Academic Achievement Award, 17 of the players were on the Commissioner’s Honor Role List, two players were awarded Academic Medals of Honor and two players earned Capital One Academic All-American Baseball Honors.

“We try really hard to recruit quality people with good character,” McDonald said. “The fact that they are doing well in school lends credibility to our thinking that we have good guys. The fact that we won the top academic award and the top sportsmanship award in the same year, I am proud of our guys and of our program. Now I want to win our on-the-field championship.”

Jaci Kohn, Assistant sports editor