Story by Gage Johnson, Staff writer
You can already smell the popcorn and hear the singing of “Take me out the ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch, as Murray State baseball has officially begun.
The Racers kicked off their season on Friday, Jan. 26, when they had their first practice of the spring season. They split up the team and held a five inning scrimmage during their practice. This will be the team’s fourth season under Head Coach Kevin Moulder. In his three seasons at Murray State, Moulder has a record of 72-99 overall and a record of 41-49 in OVC play.
The Racers are coming off a season where they went 29-30 overall with a 15-15 conference record, and were eliminated from postseason play when they were defeated by Belmont in the OVC tournament.
The 29 games won by Murray State are the most wins in a Racer Baseball season since 2009. It is the seventh-best season in program history while making the OVC tournament for the first time since 2010. Murray State has gone 15-15 in conference play over the past two seasons. Those 15 wins in OVC play are the most in program history.
The team this upcoming season will be relatively young, as they’re comprised of three graduate students and two seniors. The rest of the roster is comprised of nine juniors, nine sophomores and a freshman class of 12.
The Racers will be without former catcher Tyler Lawrence. Lawrence is Murray State’s all-time leading hitter with 266, RBIs with 189, doubles with 59, total bases with 432 and a total of 843 at-bats. He is also second all-time in career runs with 174 and third all-time in walks with 139 free bases received. The 31 home runs in his career place him as the sixth-most and his 222 games played are the most in Racer history. Lawrence is now pursuing a career professionally, as he is currently playing for the Milwaukee Brewers’ Arizona league team.
Despite the departure of Lawrence, Murray State has some key returning players to their young roster, as well as some talented freshmen. Graduate outfielder Brandon Gutzler, sophomore outfielder Ryan Perkins, graduate first baseman Ramsey Scott, senior pitcher Tyler Anderson, junior pitcher Blake Clynes, junior infielder Jaron Robinson and sophomore infielder Davis Sims are some of the key returning players for the Racers. Gutzler was the leader of the bunch last season, owning a batting average of .353 while also tying a team-high 16 home runs and leading the bunch with 71 RBIs.
Freshman infielder Grant Wood is also a nice addition and could be key for the Racers this upcoming season. Wood was the Missouri Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year last season at his high school. He was honored as first team all-state, BCA first team all-American, and ABCA third team all-American. However, he’s not the only freshman in the class of 12 that’s expected to make an impact as a Racer.
Head Coach Kevin Moulder said the abundance of youth he was able to recruit will be key in the future of Murray State baseball.
“I’m extremely excited about our freshman class,” said Moulder. “I just mentioned Grant Wood being the projected freshman of the year. He’s a special player. He’s going to have a great career here. Dylan Letellier, a very good middle infielder that will be great here. I’ve got some pitchers I’m really excited about. Weston Schad is also an exciting young power hitter.”
Murray State will open up the season in a few weeks when they begin a three-game road series at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 16, at Kansas University.