New faces to go with new season

Senior starting Pitcher David Reese

Senior starting Pitcher David Reese

Ian Taylor, sports editor

As baseball season rapidly approaches, the Lions look to repeat the success of last season after winning the MIAA Tournament Championship in route to an appearance in the NCAA Tournament, a 34-22 year for the Lions, that is now in the past, and after losing a large portion of there roster to graduation, the team enters this season with what could be an uphill battle.

“This season everyone in the conference knows we are a contender and it puts a target on our backs,” said senior Drew Noble. “Coach brought in a lot of quality guys that will help us stay at the top.”

The fact still remains, that in baseball, pitching is what wins championships and with the return of a group of senior hurlers that will be relied on to command the mound, Southern knows this most important facet of the game could be their strong suit.

The top starter in the rotation will be senior, right-hander, David Reese. A pitcher whose record (4-6) did not reflect the success in a season that he led the team with four saves and struck out 52 batters while only walking 10 in 68 innings.

Behind Reese in the rotation is a group of pitchers ready to prove last year was only the beginning, the beginning to a resurgence of a baseball program that recently saw former Head Coach Warren Turner inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame and has plans for a new stadium not far away on the horizon.

“Since I’ve been here, each year for the baseball team has improved,” said Reese. “With all the things happening off the field I believe the baseball team will begin to see a little more attention. Personally, with more attention, I find more responsibility within myself to perform better.”

Noble, senior Ryan Bates, and sophomore Payton Walker, join Reese to headline the rest of the rotation.

Noble, who went 7-4 last season, comes off a year where he stepped up in the most important of moments, pitching a complete game against the fifth ranked Missouri Western squad in the final game of the MIAA Tournament that propelled the Lions to the NCAA Tournament.

Still, last year is simply that, last year, and the Lions recognize that this team will need new players to emerge as dependable options, most of all at the plate, after losing the majority of the starters around the diamond from last year, but with players like senior Tee Helsel still locked into key positions, the Lions feel like the talent is there.

“It is important that I show the new guys what Southern baseball is about,” said Helsel. “Whether they are juco or senior transfers or freshman, we, as returners, have to make them see us as examples and to follow our lead.”

This season gets underway in the friendly confines of Joplin’s own Joe Becker Stadium, the home this year for a Lions team looking to continue the recent program upswing.

Joining Southern to open up the 2014 schedule will be Minnesota Crookston, a team coming off a season where they only managed a single victory in route to a 1-42 overall record.

A four game series that could seem like a cake walk but to a Missouri Southern team ready to get the season underway it is just the perfect excuse to get the first stain on the white jerseys.

The Lion get underway with four games, two on Saturday and two on Sunday, with the games at Joe Becker starting at 1 and 3 both days.