Story by Mark McFarland, Assistant Sports Editor
Murray State baseball will kick off its season Feb. 19 in Daytona Beach, Florida at Bethune-Cookman.
The Racers finished last season with a 16-40 overall record and an 11-19-conference record in the OVC. Head Coach Kevin Moulder is in his second season as head coach and will send out his first recruiting class for the Racers onto the field. After a rebuilding season, Moulder is excited to see the work that his team can do Feb. 19. Moulder said in order to be fully ready for the season, they need to get great weather like they were able to get last Saturday and Sunday.
“We’ll be ready to go one way or another,” Moulder said. “Now the more we get outside the better it is, but I am excited about opening up in Daytona. It should be great weather temperature-wise for us.”
The non-conference schedule for the Racers is not an easy one. Murray State will play teams like Creighton University, University of Kentucky and University of Mississippi.
Last season Creighton went 32-19 overall and had a 13-4 conference record. The Bluejays play at T.D. Ameritrade Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska, which also hosts the College World Series. Coach Moulder is impressed with Creighton and feels that they will be a good matchup that will test the Racers.
“At the beginning of March, we have Creighton coming to town and that’ll be one of the best mid-major teams in the country,” Moulder said. “They go to regionals on a regular basis.”
The Bluejays lost 8-7 in the Big East Conference tournament championship to St. John’s University. With the loss, Creighton was unable to play in NCAA Tournament.
Murray State will play Kentucky twice this year as part of an away-neutral series. The first game will be in Lexington, Kentucky and the second game will be played at Brooks Stadium in Paducah, Kentucky. Moulder said he is excited to be able to play at Brooks Stadium since it is close to Murray State but is not a true home game.
Kentucky struggled last year, going 30-25 overall and finishing the SEC regular season one game below .500. The Wildcats were unable to get past Auburn University in the first round of the SEC Tournament, losing 6-3.
Ole Miss finished last year 0-2 in NCAA Regionals. The Rebels had a 30-28 overall record and SEC record of 15-14 but could not get out of the first round of the SEC Tournament losing, to the University of Alabama 6-1.
After the loss to Alabama, the Rebels went on to the Los Angeles NCAA Regional. They played the University of Maryland in the first game, losing just 3-1. The next game was much of the same story for Ole Miss as they lost to California State University-Bakersfield 2-1 to be knocked out of the NCAA Tournament.
The game between the Racers and the Rebels will be at 6 p.m. April 20 in Oxford, Mississippi.
REUNITED TWO YEARS LATER
Murray State will travel to St. Louis University for a one-game series. Moulder used to be one of the assistant coaches at St. Louis and will be going back for the first time in two years as the head coach for the Racers. Moulder said it is a little bittersweet going back since he likes the coaches and players there.
“I’m excited because it’s a place that I love and I helped build up to the level they are at now,” Moulder said. “It’ll be fun for me in that regard, but I also am not extremely excited about having to compete against friends.”
Moulder continued to say that St. Louis is an area were he likes to recruit and will continue to try and recruit in the future.
“It’ll be a neat game,” Moulder said. “We have a lot of kids from the St. Louis area on the team and we have five guys who are signed from our early class.”
Murray State went 11-19 in the OVC last year, finishing ninth out of 11 teams. Southeast Missouri State won the conference, going 22-8 in the OVC, but lost to Morehead State 16-3 in the conference tournament championship game.
The Racers won’t start their OVC games until Mar. 11 when they travel to UT Martin. Moulder believes his team has the talent to be competitive and make the OVC Tournament at the end of the season.
“I hope we get some consistency from us that’ll start with pitching,” Moulder said. “If we can find three guys to give us consistent starts on the weekend, then I feel like we can be really competitive. We certainly have the in-house candidates to do so, but we got a battle going on right now for those three spots. If we get that figured out, we can be really competitive in conference this year.”
Moulder said the team was not competitive in the conference last year, and that is something they want to be able to do. He said he thinks that is how they will be judged with the rest of the country.
The Racers will travel to SEMO at the end of April for a three-game series and will play Morehead State for their final series of the regular season.
A few players have led the Racers in the fall and early on into the spring, turning heads of the coaching staff and some of their teammates.
Junior catcher Tyler Lawrence is on the list of top 150 draft prospects for the 2016 MLB draft. Lawrence hit .302 with 12 home runs and 46 RBIs to lead Murray State in most offensive categories.
Sophomore infielder and catcher Kipp Moore is a versatile infielder who spends some time catching. He hit .260 on the year with 23 RBIs and crossed the plate 25 times last season.
Aaron Bence a junior outfield transfer from Rend Lake College who can help the Racers with his speed. He led Rend Lake in batting average hitting .347 last season. He also led the team in hits with 51 and stolen bases with 47 on 50 attempts. He ranked third in the country in stolen bases for Rend Lake last season.
Caleb Hicks is a sophomore infielder and is a transfer from Jefferson College. Hicks has shown a strong arm whether at shortstop or third base.. He can hit for average and power. He was tied for second on his team with 10 home runs last spring as a lead-off hitter.
Ramsey Scott, junior first baseman transferred from Maple Woods Community College who has shown he can hit the ball. He hit .298 with 10 home runs and 43 RBIs last season with Maple Woods.
The senior leader of the team, Andrew Bramley, is a right-handed pitcher who struggled a little bit with a 7.56 ERA. He has since improved his pitches and velocity on the mound. He looks to be one of the anchors on the team.
The Racers will look to improve upon the season they had last year as they have more talent who will be able to help them get the wins they need. Moulder said with his first recruiting class he was trying to put extra talent on the field to try and spark some victories.