It is my absolute favorite time of the year. It is the time when spring is right around
the corner, the time when I hear in the distance the clink of aluminum against a hard ball of leather and the time when I get to wake up and smell perfectly trimmed grass on the opposite end of a long lot of asphalt. Well for UCA, I should say perfectly installed GeoSurface, if it even has a smell, but you catch my drift- it is baseball season in Bear Country.
There is something about the allure of baseball and the atmosphere that makes it my favorite sport, and over the years I still have not been able to pin down one exact reason why America’s Pastime gets me hyped up every February.
Well, this weekend was a good one to be a fan of Bears baseball, because they put on a show for those in Bear Stadium. For their home opening series, the Bears cleaned up and swept the stadium with the Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville Cougars.
I don’t know if I was the only one who noticed this when watching the Bears play, but they looked like an entirely different team to me compared to last season. The biggest change I noticed: smart at bats.
The Bears kept it together and made the Cougar’s pitchers give them the pitches they wanted. The Bears were selective, and when they swung, it was hard. The game on Saturday proved just how good the Bears’ hitting can be this season. The Bears had 11 hits during the game and made sure they profited from every single one of them.
Coach Allen Gum said he was proud and impressed with the team’s batting all weekend and I couldn’t agree with him more. Seeing senior shortstop Kyle Prevett drill a line drive triple
in the first inning of Sunday’s game was simply awesome, and Prevett wasn’t the only one. Junior first baseman Blake Roberts hit a monster of a line drive into the left field corner that rallied the Bears and tied the game at 10 during the seventh. The Bears really did play that well, and that is not to take anything away from the Cougars, because they played tough all weekend as well.
On Friday, the Cougars had a good game and struck early, but the Bears came back and pulled off a season opener win. That is another thing I noticed from this week: the Bears are calmer and more collected under the pressure of a deficit. The game on Sunday proved that to everyone in Bear Stadium.
The Bears went three innings during the game without scoring a run. During that time, the Cougars took back and added to their lead. That did not even cause the Bears to flinch. They bided their time and struck right when they needed too. Gum said the Cougars junior left-handed pitcher Dustin Quattrocchi had them in a funk and was a solid wall on the mound, but Roberts blasted that away and rallied the Bears at a critical point in the game. Like I said, they bided their time and took advantage when the Cougars were reeling from that line drive.
Needless to say, it is going to be an interesting season. From the opening weekend, it looks like the Bears have bought into Gum’s system he has been working on for the baseball program, but the real test comes on March 11 when the Bears go down to Nacogdoches, Texas to face the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks in the Bears Southland Conference opener. Last season, the Lumberjacks came to UCA and swept the Bears during the weekend series.
It is still early in the season, but hopefully the Bears will continue to gain momentum during the non-conference series that and bring that with them heading into Southland Conference play.