Tiger baseball prepares for 100th season
It is still January and 75 degrees? That suits the University of Memphis Tigers baseball team just fine as they prepare to start their season in two weeks.
And not just any baseball season, mind you. This year, Memphis will celebrate its 100th season.
The Tigers have done a lot of winning during that time, notching over 1,500 W's. This year, they plan to add a few more to that column.
"Being the coach during the hundredth season is an honor," head coach Daron Schoenrock said. "We hope to bring back some former players to really celebrate this season."
The team finished last season with a 31-28 record, coming within one game of making the NCAA Tournament field, and have lost several big bats in the lineup in Adam McClain, Eli Hynes, and Jacob Wilson - a trio that contributed 31 of the team's 41 home runs last season. Dan Langfield, the head of the rotation last season, was taken this past summer in the third round of the MLB draft and now resides in the Cincinatti Reds' farm system.
"No one player can replace these guys," Schoenrock said. "But we can replace them by committee. We are a really deep team this year - we are almost too deep at some positions. But with these position battles and by working together, we can continue moving forward."
Despite their departures, the Tigers return seven starters to their lineup and possess a deep pitching staff led by junior left-hander Sam Moll. Moll went 5-5 last year, posting a 3.48 earned run average. Junior closer Jonathan Van Eaton is back as well, looking to improve on a stellar season. Van Eaton posted a 6-2 record in relief with eight saves, complementing a brutal 1.58 ERA a year ago.
Conference USA provides a tough road this year, as both Rice and Southern Miss are ranked in Baseball America's preseason top 25 coming in at No. 18 and No. 23, respectively. The Tigers will play a three-game series with each team - Rice in May and Southern Miss in April.
"We do not have the pop that we had last year," Schoenrock said. "So we will need to put pressure on opposing defenses. That said, our pitching staff is very strong this year. If the offense can move the ball around, we will be successful."
Schoenrock enters his ninth season as the Tigers' head coach and has tallied 147 wins in his career, fourth on the all-time list of the winningest coaches in Tiger history. Former head coach Bobby Kilpatrick is the Tigers' all-time winningest coach with 653 career wins.
The Tigers will kick off the season at FedExPark against Illinois State on Feb. 15 at 4 p.m.
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