It’s spring, when the air is filled with the familiar words, “Take me out to the ball game, take me out with the crowd …” For athletes in baseball and softball, it’s time to show up on the diamond and play hard at what is arguably America’s favorite sport. And the hot dogs help!
Belmont’s season is under way, with both the baseball and softball teams at home this week after away games. The Bruins softball team took a trip to Chattanooga which ended with a 9-0 loss, while the baseball team, in three games in Jacksonville against North Florida, came out 1-2.
After a disappointing 14-34 season last year, the Belmont softball team is looking to turn things around in 2009. The Bruins are off to an 8-10 start, including a successful 4-1 appearance at the Holiday Inn Eagle Classic, hosted by Georgia Southern.
The Vision talked with head coach Amy Tudor to get her impressions on the season thus far.
Vision: With eight freshmen on this team, has there been any trouble meshing on the field?
Tudor: With any team there are phases of meshing. In the beginning, everything was a change for all members of the team. We lost five seniors and brought in 10 new players. With 10 new players and six returners, I knew there would be a lot of issues to handle and making them a team was our first priority. I am proud of how far they have come; they still have a lot of learning and growing up to do but that’s part of being a freshman.
Vision: What has this year’s freshmen class brought to the team?
Tudor: (They have brought) a winning mentality and an eagerness to play.
Vision: What is it going to take to improve over last year and win more games?
Tudor: Consistency and not getting complacent. We have to keep up our intensity and expect to get better every day. Our conference is very tough and playing well right now. Our pitching has to keep us in ball games and we must continue to hit the ball.
Vision: What has been the biggest difference between this year’s and last year’s teams?
Tudor: It is the mentality. The whole team expects to win. Also, we have a pitching staff not just one pitcher. And we have hitters not swingers.
Vision: Sophomore Julie Harmon has been playing well on offense and defense this year. Talk about what her leadership means to this team.
Tudor: She is leading the team in RBI’s which is the most important hitting stat to me. When Julie comes to play, she can be a force on the mound, in the field and at the plate. And the nice thing is that we have several players who can do this not just a few.
A year after coming up two games short of a conference tournament title, Belmont baseball is third in the Atlantic Sun with a 6-3 conference record, including a 3-0 series sweep of East Tennessee State. Senior Derek Wiley leads the conference with seven homeruns and is the leader of a strong core of Belmont seniors.
The Vision spoke with head coach Dave Jarvis and got his thoughts on the season.
Vision: What are going to be some of the team’s strengths this year?
Jarvis: I think that we are fortunate to have very good team leadership this year in our upperclassmen. That will help us as we move through our season. I also believe that our defense has the potential to be solid and consistent, especially on the infield.
Vision: What are going to be some of the main things the team will have to work on?
Jarvis: One of the main things that will determine our level of success this year will be the development of our pitching staff. Through graduation, the draft and some injuries we will need to replace a lot of innings from last year’s squad but I am very excited about the early showing from our pitchers thus far and what the possibilities are.
Vision: Over the past two years, Belmont has come within a game or two of reaching the NCAA’s. Is there a certain desire (especially among the older players) to make that extra push this year?
Jarvis: Absolutely, it is our top goal and priority of this team and the returning players are committed to that goal. There are many other stepping stones along the way and we must take them one at a time.
Vision: What are the biggest differences between this year’s team and last year’s team?
Jarvis: It is still very early but I think that this year’s team shows potential to have a great team chemistry that gives us the chance to do tremendous things and even over achieve to some extent. I credit that to our team leadership and the unselfish approach they take.
Vision: What players are you looking to for the biggest production this year?
Jarvis: We have several players that had good years for us last season. I believe that as the season goes on we will be able to put together a strong supporting cast to build around them in our lineup.