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Monday, October 2, 2023


Baseball preview: Cougars pursue new pitching strategy

The Cougars will go for strikeouts less this season.  | File photo/The Daily CougarThe Cougars will go for strikeouts less this season.  | File photo/The Daily Cougar The Cougars will go for strikeouts less this season. | File photo/The Daily Cougar

Teamwork before numbers might be the baseball team’s new mantra. The call for selflessness in a sport that places emphasis on individual numbers is the Cougars’ new approach to pitching and defense.

The Cougars’ pitchers will be moving away from the traditional route of trying to pile up large totals of strikeouts and will focus on a change in pitching style and frame of mind that will have them pitching for outs instead.

“It’s a good strategy just because it helps us kind of forget about what else is going on,” said junior pitcher Chase Wellbrock. “It makes it a lot easier on us and keeps the defense involved throughout the whole game. It’ll keep them (the defense) from playing on their heals and having to defend walks.”

The pitching staff has received the changes in strategy. Starting as early as the summer, the staff has been working to change its approach to the game in order to fit with the new style of play. The removal of ego from the team is for the best, Wellbrock said. The team has said several times that taking away selfishness has been a key step in the new style of play. “An out is an out” seems to be the new slogan amongst the pitchers.

“We’ve accepted it 100 percent, and we like it,” Wellbrock said. “It’s a great strategy, and it helps take the pressure off of us when the game is close.”

Pitching and defense were the focus of practice and improvement this offseason, according to the team.

With a veteran outfield and a young infield, shifting to a more involved defense has not been much of a problem for the team. Transfer players, such as junior catcher Caleb Barker, are more experienced than the freshmen, so the changes put in place by the coaching staff have been well-received.

“A lot of teams are going for more smallball because they changed the bats,” said junior outfielder Landon Appling in reference to recent NCAA changes that are still being felt throughout the college baseball landscape. “We’ve been out here every day and doing early work taking ground balls — especially our infield. They have been working real hard.”

The defense, according to Appling, has been coming to practice often times half an hour early in order to field ground balls, go through fielding drills and throwing to bases. The older players act as teachers and mentors to the younger players, which has proven easier since many of the younger players are transfers and already know the ins and outs of how to keep a baseball functioning team.

With the outfield a veteran unit, the young infield looks a little out of place with no traditional veterans.

Appling admitted it might be tough, but stressed that once the season gets underway, things should come together very quickly and for the best.

“We’ve been practicing hard and have been ready to play for quite a while now, going as far back as the start of fall practice. We’ve learned a lot and have gotten a lot better. We’re ready to go.”

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