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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Baseball

New look of Cougar Field serves Survance well


Sophomore outfielder Kyle Survance led Conference-USA with 20 stolen bases in 23 attempts. | Esteban Portillo/The Daily Cougar

Sophomore outfielder Kyle Survance led Conference USA with 20 stolen bases in 23 attempts. | Esteban Portillo/The Daily Cougar

When he looks at the new field, there seems to be an eagerness in Kyle Survance’s gaze, which might be expected for a young man who was associated with speed last season. The sophomore outfielder who led the team in stolen bases last season remains decidedly soft-spoken about his feats, eschewing the normal bravado that can be associated with athletic success.

After attending Jersey Village High School, where he was a three-year letter winner and team MVP his senior year, Survance still isn’t satisfied with his transition into a Freshman All-American.

“It’s not really a big deal to me, I guess. It’s an award, but it was last year,” Survance said of his Freshman All-American season in which he hit for .299 and led Conference USA with 20 stolen bases in 23 attempts. “Looking back, I had a good freshman season. I could’ve had a better one, but now I know that I can come in and I can do things and progress and keep getting better.”

The aforementioned eagerness can probably be explained by the new Cougar Field, the pet project of head coach Todd Whitting. Built for both beauty and real form and function, the field was designed to play on the team’s, and Survance’s, gifts.

“A strength we have as a team this year is our team speed,” Whitting said. “We led Conference USA in stolen bases last year, and with the new field, I have noticed that it does play pretty quick. I’ve noticed in practice (Survance) can run a little faster on it. We should be able to put a lot of pressure on opposing defenses by forcing actions on the bases.”

Survance, who had five games in which he stole multiple bases last season, takes a tactical approach about the new field and its potential.

“I think it’s going to give me a little bit more of an advantage,” he said. “The turf plays a little bit faster, and you can run a little bit faster on it.”

The stolen base is an emerging important part of college baseball, given the changing nature of the game as it moves away from a power-oriented game. In 2011, the NCAA set new standards on bats to ensure that metal bats performed like wooden ones.

“I think it’s pretty important if you can move a guy over without having to bunt him or sacrifice another out,” Survance said. “To get a guy from first to second or second to third with less than two outs is great. I think it can be used as a big tool for offenses in college baseball.”

Whitting, a veteran of strategy, includes base stealing as an integral part of his offensive plan.

“Nowadays, runs are gold,” Whitting said. “If you can manufacture yourself around the bases and pick up a run or two here and there because of your speed, it’s going to increase your chances of winning the game. Speed has changed recruiting philosophy a lot. Used to be, my main recruiting was hitters and maybe a kid that could play shortstop and a few pitchers. Now you have to have runners.”

Senior outfielder Landon Appling applied Whitting’s recruiting ideas to what he and Survance do as base-stealers with more simplicity.

“Our job is to hit the ball on the ground and run fast,” Appling said. “It makes us faster, definitely.”

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