Adapting on the fly
Mesa State baseball team adjusts to weather, plays today
The season hasn’t even started yet and the fifth-ranked Mesa State College baseball team is being tested.
The Mavericks, who open the 2010 season with a four-game series at Dixie State (Utah) College today and Saturday, have rarely been outside for practice this season because of the winter weather.
“We’ve been challenged,” Mesa State coach Chris Hanks said. “I’m proud of the guys. They’ve been pliable; they’ve adapted well. We’ve practiced in the gym, on ice, snow and at Gene Taylor’s. I haven’t heard one complaint. We’re going to adapt and figure it out.
“We had very similar problems in 2007 and didn’t get much outside work. The skills in baseball are fairly easily retained. What’s hard to retain is physical conditioning and strength.
“If we don’t have the facilities or setup to get all the skill work in, then we’ll be in shape (from lifting weights). We’re as ready as we could be. I do think in general, we’re in better shape than we’ve been in some years.”
Although that might help down the road, it could take some time for the Mavericks to get familiar with each other with 24 new faces on the roster mixing in with nine returning players from Mesa State’s first NCAA Division II World Series appearance.
The Mavericks (44-15) set several school records last season, including single-season team batting average (.376) and stolen bases (113), and led the nation in scoring with 10.3 runs per game.
All-American outfielder Kevin Becker and senior captains Marty Rover and Austin Buck lead a veteran group that includes five position players and pitchers Garrett Carpenter, Kyle Davis, Chris Shea and Scott Bachman.
The returning World Series participants are joined by five redshirts, pitchers Jack Amidei, T.J. Stastny and Ben Sawyer and position players Joe Schmidtbauer and Peter Arakawa.
“Although we lost a lot of guys, we have a lot of good leadership returning in the form of Kevin Becker, Marty Rover, Austin Buck and even some guys in support roles like Greg Anderson,” Hanks said. “We have a lot of guys that will factor in this year that were on last year’s club.
“We have a nucleus of guys who know what things are about. I know they’ve been working to make sure the new players understand expectations, not just in terms of winning and losing, but how we carry ourselves and how we operate.
“I’m comfortable with our talent and skill level. I think we’re fine. I think we have what we need to be good. What we have to do is figure out where everybody goes.”
Thirteen of the 24 new players have college experience, including Division I transfers Brian Bello (center fielder, North Carolina State) and Derek Riley (pitcher, Arkansas State). The seniors from Colorado opted to transfer to Mesa State to be closer to home.
Mesa added 11 junior college transfers, including Bellevue (Wash.) Community College teammates Brian Shelton (outfielder) and Lucas Shaw (first baseman).
The juniors led the Bulldogs to the Northwest Athletic Association of Community College baseball title. Junior colleges in California, Oregon and Washington do not participate in the National Junior College Athletic Association World Series played in Grand Junction.
“I really miss (last year’s) group, but this is a new group,” Hanks said. “There are great kids here. I really like their character. It’s a hard-working group. We just have to make sure we’re together and we’re on the same page.”
Pitchers Mike Sutton, Dylan Evans, Tim Moore and Ryon Dudley transferred to Mesa and are expected to contribute.
Sutton is a probable starter this weekend. Fruita Monument graduate and Otero Junior College transfer Taylor Hamilton and freshman Rex Clemons, another Fruita grad, should factor in as well.
Position player transfers include Art Flores, Ken Evanson, Brett Nigbur and Grand Junction High graduate Erik Nordine, who could play several positions for the Mavericks.
Freshmen twin brothers Colton Vaughn and Michael Vaughn could compete for playing time along with Hawaiian Naea Kalehuawehe.