New offense focus of baseball team this year


File Photo

Tyler Jones throws a pitch during Eastern’s 9-3 loss to Tennessee Tech at Coaches Stadium in March 2018. Jones threw for six innings and gave up six total runs and had four strikeouts.

Dillan Schorfheide, Assistant Sports Editor

The last time Eastern’s baseball team took the field, it was the eighth seed in the OVC tournament facing Murray State, the seventh seed.

The journey of starting the offseason to the point of getting ready for the next season abruptly hit the Panthers in the face, in the fashion of a 15-5 loss to the Racers.

Now, one week fewer than nine whole months, the baseball team’s season starts up once again, and head coach Jason Anderson is excited for the season to start up again.

“I’m just excited for this group of guys, it has been very enjoyable to see them work,” he said. “This is a great group of people, and they’ve worked hard, and we’re talented and we’re deep, and so we’re on the cusp of a really good season if things go our way and we stay healthy.”

One thing became apparent to Anderson that need to be worked on before the opening series of this season: the team’s offensive strategy.

Anderson said the team had to change its entire approach offensively.

“We thought we were going to be a big-time offense last year and we really struggled,” Anderson said. “So we completely changed the type of offense we are going to do.”

Last season, Eastern averaged a .271 batting average and had a total of 316 RBIs.

The Panthers finished ninth in the OVC with that batting average, and they finished eighth in the conference with their RBI total.

One of the more big-time offenses last year belonged to Tennessee Tech, whose team batting average was .334. The Golden Eagles also had 595 RBIs and 135 total home runs, all three of which were conference-leading statistics.

Eastern had 279 fewer RBIs, 71 fewer home runs and .063 percentage points fewer in batting average.

To improve the offensive production this season, Anderson said the team wants to put more emphasis on the small things, such as stealing bases.

Anderson said last season, the offense was basically home run or bust; the team did not do well with hitting with runners in scoring position.

“When you’re going up and just swinging for home runs all the time, that’s a tough way to win games, especially against good teams,” he said. “So, this year, we’re going to be able to steal bases, and we are going to be able to draw walks, and we’re going to have a better approach with runners in scoring position.”

On the flip side, Anderson said the team’s defense does not need any major changes. He said the team’s defense has been average over the last few years.

But he does anticipate it will be better due to the athleticism on the team.

“This year I think we’re really going to be athletic, we’re really going to be able to run and throw,” he said. “Offensively we have to be better, and defensively we definitely are going to be better.”

The baseball team will have its first chance to showcase its changes Friday, when it opens the year with a three-game road trip to visit the University of Arkansas.

Arkansas comes in the preseason rankings at No. 16, after reaching the College World Series championship series last year and finishing as the runner-up.

Anderson said what his team does is try to overcome every obstacle and that Arkansas will be as big of an obstacle as he can throw in front of his players.

“They were literally one fly ball from winning the national championship last year,” he said. “Our thing is to just go down there and play our baseball.”

Eastern’s series includes one game per day, Friday through Sunday, with the first game being Friday at 3 p.m.

Dillan Schorfheide can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]