After they fell short of a Missouri Valley Conference title last year, the SIUC men’s baseball team is in preparation for the 2013 season to commence.
The fifth ranked MVC team features nine seniors and three freshmen. Coach Ken Henderson said the team is in a good position to start the season.
“Everything is going really well right now. The main thing is that we are healthy and have been fortunate to get out on our field and scrimmage a couple of times. I think
preparations are going well and the guys have really gotten after it,” he said. The men’s baseball team kicks off the season with an eight game tour of
universities in both Alabama and Tennessee. Coach Henderson said there is no other goal going into those games
other than to win. “We expect to win. It’s not spring training. The first game
counts just as much as the last one does. We’re not going down to work on things or anything like that, we fully expect to play well and win down there
to start the season well,” he said. The team features two players selected
to the Missouri Valley Conference preseason all-conference team. Although they weren’t picked first, coach Henderson said he thinks the rank doesn’t do the team
“I don’t think there is any way you can really rank teams preseason,” he said. “Anybody has the chance to win the league and if we play well we could definitely finish first.”
The Salukis are fortunate because they have three returning players that have a history of hitting the ball well.
Senior Rennie Troggio has a .303 batting average and batted in 21 runs last year.
Junior Jake Welch was second on the team in batting average, hit .308 and also drove in 33 runs.
However, senior Austin Montgomery the team’s biggest offensive producer. Montgomery led the team in all batting categories; he had a .332 batting average, seven home runs and accounted for 55 runs batted in.
Coach Henderson said he expects the senior to have yet another great season.
“Austin has been a good hitter for us the past three years, and there is no reason why that should change,” he said. “Some guys can just hit and he’s one of them, so I would expect him to have a great year.”
Coach Henderson added three freshman pitchers to a team with both depth and experience.
The pitching staff already featured preseason all-conference pitcher senior Cody Forsythe as well as nine other upperclassmen. Forsythe led the Salukis last year with a 3.10 earned run average and 84 strikeouts.
The pitching staff also features sophomore right-hander Sam Coonrod, who was second behind Forsythe in many pitching categories. Coonrod finished last season with a 4.64 ERA, a .251 opposing
batting average and 54 strikeouts.
Coonrod said he expects to improve this year, and he hopes to work off of Forsythe’s success.
“I’ve learned a lot from Cody,” he said. “He’s very poised and a very good pitcher, and learning from his has definitely helped me a lot, especially how calm his attitude is,” he said.
Lack of experience is an aspect that the Salukis should not have an issue with this year. The Salukis have nine seniors to add to a roster that includes 23 upperclassmen.
Forsythe said the team’s experience has
already shown in the preseason, and he expects the seniors to lead throughout the year.
“I feel as good now as I ever had starting the spring,” he said. “I think the experience should help us go through the ups and downs of the season.”
After a title-game loss during last year’s MVC conference tournament, Forsyth said the one thing on everyone’s mind this year is a title win.
“The goal is always being the last man standing through the conference tournament then go on from there, but we definitely want to win a ring this year and I think that is what everyone is going to focus in on,” he said. “Anything after that is going to be a bonus for us.”
The Salukis start the season February 15 against the University of Alabama in Birmingham, AL.