With a year under their collective belts, second-year Eastern New Mexico University baseball coach Chris Terry believes he and his returning players have a better feel for things in the Lone Star Conference.
The Greyhounds struggled under Terry last season, notably in LSC play where they went just 4-23.
“We’re definitely a different team than last year, but everybody has a different team,” Terry said. “We have a long season ahead of us; we’re gong to have a lot of ups and downs. We’ll have to be able to overcome adversity.”
ENMU (14-32 overall last season) was picked for last place in the eight-team LSC, but Terry said he pays little if any attention to that. He said he’s experiencing a smoother ride as he prepares for a season-opening four-game series against Adams State next weekend at Greyhound Field.
“We have a lot better leadership this year,” he said. “We feel like we have an amazing group of kids that are jelling as a team.”
The Hounds’ strong suit is probably their outfield, where three seniors return — Luis Quinones of Las Cruces in left, Brooke Brooks of Elk Grove, Calif., in center, and Derek Crenshaw of Pinole Valley, Calif., in right.
Quinones led the team in batting average (.375) and hits (66) as the leadoff man in 2012, while Brooks hit .287 and stole a team-leading nine bases and Crenshaw batted .292.
“There’s no more transition period,” said Quinones said. “It’ll be a better year for us because we know the level of play better in the Lone Star Conference.”
Senior Daniel Binz of Santa Rosa, Calif., who played mostly second and third last year, will start the season at first base, Terry said. Binz hit .323 with three homers and 24 RBIs in 2012.
Juco transfers Colton Sims of Reno, Nev., and Brett Ackerman of San Diego are expected to open the season at second and short, respectively, with another transfer, Rafael Romo of Riverside, Calif., at third. Senior Peter Creamer of Boston, who split time with the graduated Joe Huwer behind the plate last year, will share it this year with another transfer, Jacob Rogers of Temecula, Calif., and do some DHing when he’s not behind the plate.
Leading candidates for the Hounds’ four-game LSC weekend rotation, all right-handers, are junior Brett Humphries of St. Louis (4-3, 4.74 earned run average); sophomore Ryan Boydston of La Quinta, Calif. (2-2, 7.59); grad student Ryan Pruitt of Glendale, Ariz. (0-1 in 11 relief appearances last season), and transfer Ben Monticello of Santa Rosa, Calif.
Terry said he thinks his staff has some depth, and will show improvement over last year.
“I feel like we have guys who will throw strikes and get the ball down (in the strike zone),” he said. “The thing that’s most important for us is our defense is better. Last year, we gave a lot of games away through bad defense.”
The Hounds hit .309 as a team last season and averaged about 5 1/2 runs a game, but they committed 96 fielding errors which led to nearly 90 unearned runs for the opposition.
Quinones, the only Hound to play and start in all 46 games last season, is hopeful the team’s experienced outfield can cover ENMU’s spacious garden — one of the bigger parks in the conference — and set the table for a much-improved overall defense.
“We hit very well as a team last year, so we’re looking to carry that over,” said Quinones, who did not make an error in the field last season. “I think we’ll play better defense than we did last year.
“This is definitely a hitters’ conference. It’s hard to pick up pitching at this level — a lot of pitchers either get drafted (professionally) or go to Division I.”
Terry is just looking to build a program over time.
“We’re trying to make strides,” he said. “For me, it doesn’t have as much to do with wins or who we beat as much as playing good, solid baseball.”
Angelo State was picked to defend its LSC title this year, and Terry expects teams like Abilene Christian, West Texas A&M and Incarnate Word to be formidable as well.
“It’ll be the usual suspects (at the top),” he said. “Everybody’s good — there’s nobody we can overlook.”
9 — Adams State (2), noon; 10 — Adams State (2), noon; 15 — at New Mexico Highlands, 2 p.m.; 16 — at New Mexico Highlands (2), 11 a.m.; 17 — New Mexico Highlands, noon; 19 — Lubbock Christian, 2 p.m.; 22 — Metro State, 3 p.m.; 23 — Metro State (2), noon; 24 — Metro State, noon.; 26 — University of the Southwest, 2 p.m.
1-3 — at Abilene Christian tournament (1 vs. Abilene Christian, 5 p.m.; 2 — vs. Tarleton State, noon; 3. — Cameron, noon); 6 — at University of the Southwest, 2 p.m.; 12 — at New Mexico Highlands, 2 p.m.; 15 — at Tarleton State, 2 p.m.-x; 16 — at Tarleton State (2), 1 p.m.-x; 17 — at Tarleton State, 1 p.m.-x; 19 — New Mexico Highlands, 3 p.m.; 22 — Cameron, 5 p.m.-x; 23 — Cameron (2), 2 p.m.-x; 24 — Cameron, noon-x; 28 — at Abilene Christian, 6 p.m.-x; 29 — at Abilene Christian (2), 1 p.m.-x; 30 — at Abilene Christian, noon-x.
2 — Wayland Baptist, 3 p.m.; 5 — Angelo State, 3 p.m.-x; 6 — Angelo State (2), 11 a.m.-x; 7 — Angelo State, noon-x; 12 — at Incarnate Word, 5 p.m.-x; 13 — at Incarnate Word (2), 2 p.m.-x; 14 — at Incarnate Word, noon-x; 16 — at Wayland Baptist, 11 a.m.; 19 — Texas A&M-Kingsville, 6 p.m.-x; 20 — Texas A&M-Kingsville (2), 2 p.m.-x; 21 — Texas A&M-Kingsville, noon-x; 26 — West Texas A&M, 6 p.m.-x; 27 — West Texas A&M (2), 3 p.m.-x; 28 — West Texas A&M, noon-x.
All times Mountain. x-Denotes Lone Star Conference games.
Coach: Chris Terry (2nd year, 14-32). Assistants: Andy Stewart, Matt Sena.