The cold weather may suggest otherwise, but America’s pastime is returning to ORU. The Golden Eagles baseball team opens the season Feb. 14 at home against Southeast Missouri State.
The performance of a young pitching staff will be vital to ORU’s success in 2014.
Alex Gonzalez, Tim Zufall and Drew Bowen started a combined 40 games for ORU last season. None of the three players are on the roster this year. Zufall and Bowen graduated, while Gonzalez skipped his senior year to sign with the Texas Rangers as their No. 1 draft choice.
The Golden Eagles are going to have to find a way to replace some of that production if they are going to be successful.
Head Coach Ryan Fulmar believes his young players and the bullpen will have to make major contributions every game.
“We have to have some young guys step into big roles,” Fulmar said. “Some newer guys on campus have to walk in and be a big part of our pitching staff. We’re going to try and develop our bullpen a lot more. The strength of our staff right now would definitely be the bullpen.”
Senior pitcher Kurt Giller will lead the Golden Eagles pitching staff. Giller started seven games last year for ORU but will see an increased role this year.
“I’m excited for it,” said Giller. “This is what I wanted to do from day one since I got here. I’ve had some opportunities and some of them have been good; some of them have been bad. This is what I have worked for the past four years. I’m excited to be the guy out there and have the ball in my hand.”
ORU had two players named to Southland Conference All-Preseason teams. Senior Tyler Boss was named to the first team and Junior Jose Trevino was named to the second team.
Boss hit seven homeruns last year and had 32 runs batted in. Trevino led the team with eight homeruns and also batted in 37 runs.
Trevino makes the move back to third base this year after playing catcher most of last season. Audie Afenir, who played three games last season before a season ending elbow injury, will anchor the catcher position for ORU.
Part of the reason to move Trevino back to third base is to keep him healthy. Trevino missed six games last year due to injury and was hampered by injuries in other games.
ORU will play their second season in the Southland Conference. Their 16-11 record last year tied for third in the final conference standings.
ORU is picked fourth in the preseason coaches’ poll behind Sam Houston State, Lamar and Southeastern Louisiana.
“It’s definitely going to have to be a team effort,” Fulmar said. “We’re not going to have a first round draft pick like we did a year ago. For us to be good, for us to win a championship, it’s going to have to be a team effort. From the first guy on our roster to the last guy on our roster, I think we have a lot of really good college baseball players. If we play with some chemistry and great effort, [they] have a chance to be really good.”
The season-opener is slated for a 3 p.m. first pitch on Feb. 14 at J.L. Johnson Stadium.