Lions and Peacocks open new baseball field

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Beth Hammons| The Chart File Photo

Junior Payton Walker pitches during the Lions April 18, 2014 contest at Joe Becker Stadium against Central Oklahoma. Walker went seven innings giving up four runs in the Lions loss.

Ian Taylor, Sports Editor

This weekend is an important one for Missouri Southern sports. The Lions are in the thick of multiple battles for the postseason, but as this Saturday arrives, the one form of competition that will require more attention than all others is baseball.

The Lions begin their season with a number of storylines — a new field to open, one located right here on the green and gold soil; a new roster filled with transfer talent from around the area; and a new passion to prove this team will have to be reckoned with in 2015.

“For me and some of the guys that have been here, it’s a ream come true to have something like this [new field] that we can call our own,” said senior Tee Helsel. “The excitement kills the nerves [for the opener] I think. A little extra practice and our team depth should prepare us.”

Last year Southern started the season off with a bang, winning the opening 12 contests of the year, but as the year played out, the team’s shortcomings began to show. Their bats grew colder and colder, and as a result they struggled to edge out conference opponents in tight ballgames throughout the second half of the schedule.

That was a hard pill to swallow for a unit on the verge of victory nearly every time they stepped on the diamond, but after a year with such difficulty, the Lions now prepare to put 2014 behind them and focus on 2015.

Up first for Southern is Upper Iowa, a team in a similar situation as they look to improve upon a disappointing campaign a year ago, going 11-30 overall following a 14-25 record in 2013.

For the Peacocks it may be an uphill battle as they were selected to finish 13th out of 15 in their conference this season in the preseason coaches’ poll.

The Peacocks were outscored in nearly every inning a season ago, giving up runs a-plenty at the hands of a less than stellar pitching staff, but the blow that may be most important to this season is the loss of Tyler Adams from the Peacocks roster.

Adams was a veteran of the program and led the roster with a .424 batting average last season, an important statistic as only three players on the team batted over .300.

The Lions will tell you the company line if asked — that those are just statistics and that is why they play the games — but in a conference with teams the likes of Emporia State, Central Missouri and Central Oklahoma, the Lions do not have time to stumble out of the gate.

“Games this early in the season will help us to see what kind of team we are,” said senior pitcher Ryan Spry, “and what we need to work on for later.”

The Lions and Peacocks get the season underway tomorrow at the new home of the Lions. First pitch is scheduled for noon.