Team prepares for three phases

Nathan Hughes, junior economics major, takes his turn during batting practice Feb. 5. The baseball team headed to Dallas to play its first game Feb. 6.

Bill Shepherd

Nathan Hughes, junior economics major, takes his turn during batting practice Feb. 5. The baseball team headed to Dallas to play its first game Feb. 6.

Keith Robertson

The Missouri Southern baseball team has high hopes for the upcoming season.

But, as head coach Warren Turner is quick to point out, not too high.

Warren’s coaching philosophy, although time-tested and battle proven, may strike sports followers as unorthodox. Among the goals set for this season, Warren includes being at least .500, making the conference tournament and giving his team the best chance to play well and win.

“Sure, everybody wants to win 30 games or more, but a team can win too much,” Turner said. “Winning breeds complacency and a good team cannot be complacent.”

These may not be the most inspiring goals, but the team has come to embrace them and play the way Turner expects.

“Coach [Turner] may be different, but he is fair and he knows what he’s doing,” said senior first baseman Darin Nonenmaker. “Players don’t question what he says because he’s proven himself over the years.”

Turner, despite his less-than-optimistic goals, is optimistic, however, about the way his team is shaping up, and he is looking forward to seeing how it responds to game situations and the grueling season.

The Lions have a good base of returning players that are expected to be the team leaders.

“Our returning players, like Nonenmaker, know what to expect from me and the college baseball season,” Turner said. “They are going to have to help the new guys get accustomed to the way the season will go.”

In addition to the nucleus of returning players, Turner also expects to see contributions from a few of his new players. He is looking forward to Dane Carver and Mark Catanzaro, both junior college transfers, to fill in holes offensively. Pitchers Charlie Robinson and Jeff Taylor, senior and freshman respectively, are expected to round out the pitching staff.

“The team is really becoming a family,” Turner said. “I put a big emphasis on the family aspect and togetherness of the team, and these guys are coming together great. This is a nice team. But, it has a lot of work to do to get to where it needs to be.”

The Lions are certain to get some experience early in the season, and, Turner said, “hopefully they will learn some lessons on the first road trip.”

The first road trip takes the Lions to Dallas and Fayetteville to face Dallas Baptist and the University of Arkansas.

This “first phase” of the season, as Turner calls it, is a kind of spring training for the team. It gives the players a chance to play some tough competition and learn a few lessons early in the season.

“The first trip is an opportunity for the players to learn how to handle successes and some failures, and the earlier they learn those lessons, the better,” Turner said.

“Phase two” of the season occurs between late February and late March when the Lions host four round robin tournaments at Joe Becker Stadium. This phase, the head coach said, gives the team the chance to play as much as it possibly can against as many different teams as possible and prepare it for the “third phase” of the season, the MIAA conference schedule.

The conference has been dominated by Central Missouri State University. But the Lions have their sights set on CMSU and feel confident they are the team most likely to dethrone the Mules.

“Every year we look to beat Central, and every year we just fall a little short,” Nonenmaker said. “This year I think we have the best shot in the conference at knocking them off, and hopefully we won’t fall short.”

No matter how the Lions fare against CMSU this year, Nonenmaker said he is “confident the team will make the conference tournament and hopeful to progress from there.”