When analyzing the statistics, the strength of the Horned Frogs’ baseball lineup for the 2011 season resides in the outfield.
Junior right fielder Brance Rivera said the team is focused on playing the game the same way it always has.
Rivera appeared in 60 games and made 48 starts during the 2010 season. He finished the season with a batting average of .342 and an overall fielding percentage of .989.
Rivera, who was a First-Team All-Mountain West Conference outfielder this past year, said the experience the team gained from the 2010 College World Series has helped it understand how it needs to play and what it has to get through to get to the top.
“It takes a load off your back just knowing that,” Rivera said. “[Having] the No. 1 ranking, I have no doubt that we’ll be back and win it all.”
Junior left fielder Jason Coats started 66 of 67 games and ranked second on the team with a .361 batting average.
Coats set a school record with 99 hits last season, and he also holds some career honors from previous years.
Coats was named the 2009 NCAA Fort Worth Regional MVP, 2010 First-team All-Mountain West Conference, 2010 NCAA Fort Worth Regional All-Tournament team and MWC Hitter of the Week.
He said the opportunity to play in front of 24,000 people last year in Omaha, Neb., helped pump up the team for this season.
“I think it’s just really going to help everybody with the experience and the confidence we’re going to need going into this season,” Coats said.
Returning players also expected to play in the outfield this season include junior Aaron Schultz, sophomore Kyle Von Tungeln and junior Zac Jordan.
Schultz was named to the 2010 Houston College Classic All-Tournament team and 2010 NCAA Fort Worth Regional All-Tournament team and hit .293 with 65 hits last season.
Von Tungeln scored 25 runs and drove in 16 runs while being walked 18 times . Jordan hit .273 with 10 runs scored, four RBIs and three doubles.
Head coach Jim Schlossnagle said Schultz, Von Tungeln and Jordan could be expected to see playing time because of their high level of play. Schlossnagle said he was confident about all of the returning outfielders from this past year.
“It’s a veteran group of guys that have had a significant amount of success on the college level, and we just need them to keep improving,” he said.
The team also welcomes a handful of freshmen to the team this year. Coats said the freshmen are getting along with everyone on the team.
“We try to make it easy for them to fit in here, so I think they’re enjoying their time here and looking forward to the season,” Coats said.
Rivera said assistant coach Tony Vitello, who is in his first year with the team, is doing a great job working with the hitters and infielders. Schlossnagle also continues to prepare the team on a day-to-day basis, Rivera said.
“We’re not going to be surprised when opening day comes,” he said.