By Nick Kieser
It is time to hit the road for the Volunteer State Community College Pioneers baseball team this weekend. The team will play in the annual Flag City Tournament in Memphis, Tennessee.
The team is looking to get a win early in their season.
Ryan Hunt, head coach, knows that his guys still have some things to work on and is trying to “get all the kinks worked out” with the team.
Because of rain, one of the three games in Memphis has been moved to Vol State’s Garrett Field Feb. 12 at 2 p.m.
The Pioneers feel there are some improvements to be made in pitching.
“We need to throw our strikes better. We walked quite a few guys in our scrimmage versus Trevecca,” said Hunt.
This tournament will help the Pioneers in a few ways. First, the new freshman players will get a sense for how college baseball feels. Each player will have to transition to the fast-paced game played in the NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association). The trip to Memphis will also help preview how the team can play at its full potential this season.
“We could do good or even better than last year,” said Hunt about this tournament.
The team has a consistent work ethic and attends practices every weekday. The pitchers arrive at 1:30 p.m., and position players arrive at 2:30 p.m. If there is an intersquad scrimmage, everyone will be at the field at 1:30 p.m.
Freshman relief pitcher, Chase Haley, knows from his time scrimmaging that his coach is watching everyone closely.
Hunt has been running a lot of intersquads lately to see who will fit well into the system before the regular season starts, said Haley.
Still a redshirt, Haley wants to be back to where his pitching performance was in high school. He knows that throwing at 84 mph is not enough to crack the team as a freshman, but the feat is not impossible.
“I want to get back up to 87 mph so I can show the scouts that I am not the same I was in high school,” said Haley.
Despite having a PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injection for soreness, Haley feels he is progressing at a steady pace. Haley mentioned if he ever gets a chance to play over the weekend that he will “more than likely” throw a fastball as his first pitch.
To make the weekend and season easier, Haley reminds himself to keep an uplifting attitude. “I’ve been sore and that’s the body saying it’s working. If I dwell on my failure, it will continue to happen,” said Haley.
As the regular season nears, the team is realizing what this means for them.
“It’s starting to get close and more real to me,” said Haley.
After the Flag City Tournament, the Pioneers have a hefty workload in front of them.
“It can be a pretty daunting schedule,” said Hunt, talking about the long season his team will have.
Each game will need to have an element of urgency and to be taken seriously. No game on the schedule needs to be taken for granted, but rather, no matter the opponent, each game needs to be played at full speed.
“We’ll have our hands full. There is some good competition this year,” said Hunt.
Aggressiveness will be a major key for the Pioneers as a whole. Making themselves unpredictable will throw opponents off, and hopefully, by listening to Hunt, they can be happy with how they will perform.
The Pioneers home opener is Friday, Feb. 16 at 2 p.m. at Garrett Field versus the Moraine Valley Community College Cyclones.