Baseball team begins season, works toward conference

Jeremiah Cook

To start its season, the Missouri Southern baseball team will play in three tournaments, facing 12 teams, all in the space of three weeks time.

The Lions kicked off their 2004 season at home in the MSSU Larry Hickey Classic on Feb. 27 through Saturday. Starting off at home is something the Lions wanted to do for more than just themselves.

“I like playing at home,” said Warren Turner, head coach. “I want to play at home as much as I can. Eighty-five percent of my team is from the local area, so why not play at home where these people can see them play every day?”

“We like playing at home, and the tournaments give us a chance to have a bunch of home games in a row and to play every day,” said Jeff Taylor, sophomore right-handed pitcher/first baseman.

While it may be early in the season, the Lions have already found a few areas they want to address before they head into conference play.

“We started off struggling with our bats,” said Jake Lawver, senior right-handed pitcher/infielder. “But we’ve come around, our defense is looking good and our pitching staff is confident. The hitting will come around.”

The Lions know they are facing stiff competition in the tournaments, but think facing such teams now will help them to prepare for the rest of the season.

“We’ve got some pretty good competition here,” Taylor said. “Playing teams like that is going to help us when it comes conference time.”

Taylor’s teammate agreed.

“It’s good for us,” Lawver said. “It gets us ready for our conference. We’ve already faced a lot of good teams, and we’re just going to see how it goes. We need these games because it will help us to get a regional bid in the end. It’s good for us to win.”

It’s about more than just winning for the Lions, who believe the focus of their program should be on developing the individuals as more than just players.

“I’ve learned how to work with a team,” Lawver said. “I think that it’s really taught me to step it up a notch and just not waste any time, because I’m going to be done after this time.”

“I think its developing people as a whole,” Taylor said. “Not only are we baseball players, but we do a lot of community service, and try to keep our grades up.”

Turner maintains a philosophy for the team.

“There are four B’s to baseball,” Turner said. “The Bible, brotherhood, books and baseball, in that order. I want them to be humble and appreciative of the things that people do for them. When they leave here, they know that it’s important to give back.”