Baseball begins season in Houston

Written by Muleskinner Staff

Redshirt junior Ben Cox was a designated hitter last season, but will play first base this season. (Photo by ANDREW MATHER, Photo Editor)
Redshirt junior Ben Cox was a designated hitter last season, but will play first base this season. (Photo by ANDREW MATHER, Photo Editor)

Story by ALEX AGUEROS, for The Muleskinner—
Mules baseball has an early start to the 2013 season, as it travels to Houston for the Astros in Action D-II Invitational.
The Mules go into the season picked No. 1 in the MIAA preseason poll, No. 4 in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper’s poll, No. 6 in the College Baseball Lineup poll, and No. 9 in the D2BaseballNews.com poll.
However, national praise is the last thing on head coach Tom Myers’ mind.
“It’s just a recognition of your history and past success,” Myers said. “It’s a nice honor, but we can’t focus on that. We have to go out and play good ball.”
The sixth-year head coach is coming off a 48-9 season, and has won at least 44 games each year at Central. Much of the team’s success is in Central’s fast-paced style of play.
“We pressure the defense and make it real difficult on the other team,” Myers said.
The Mules feature a disciplined offense that focuses on making good contact and being aggressive on the base paths, as shown by last year’s .327 batting average and 103 stolen bases.
On the pitching side, the Mules lost nearly half of their innings pitched to graduation, forcing some players to step up. Myers says it’s all part of the process.
“We’ll have a lot of new pitchers this year,” he said. “That’s what happens each year. They go into the season knowing they’ll have to do whatever it takes to win.”
Some defensive changes are in store for the 2013 Mules, as redshirt senior John Oropeza will move from first base to third, replacing the graduated Jordon Coons.
“(Oropeza) played third a little bit as a freshman,” Myers said. “He was very capable of it, but had a shoulder injury, so we moved him to first the next couple of years. We liked Oropeza as an in house replacement for an outgoing senior.”
Redshirt junior Ben Cox will play first base. Cox had a breakout season in 2012, hitting a team high .374, and drawing 38 walks as the designated hitter. The Warrensburg native listed his goals for the season.
“Every year we’re going for a national championship,” Cox said. “For me, I want to focus on staying within myself by hitting the ball flat, battling out at-bats, and playing good defense.”
Every collegiate program goes through drastic changes each off-season, and Mules baseball is no exception. Coach Myers notes that adapting to these changes keeps the program successful.
“The new guys just have to learn our system and what we want to do,” Myers said. “It’s a good adjustment for them to learn, and once they do we should really take off.”
The Mules have six road games to start the season. Feb. 1-4, they will play Texas A&M-Kingsville, Abilene Christian, Arkansas Tech and Arkansas-Monticello at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas.
Central begins the MIAA schedule at Fort Hays State, with a doubleheader Feb. 16 and a single game Feb. 17.