Baseball

(left) Jordan Fitzpatrick, junior, and Troy Gagan, senior business major.

Coach Bryce Darnell is leading the charge for the 13-1 2020 Lions Baseball program. With their pitching and timely hitting leading to a walk off victory Sunday against SW Minnesota, Darnell has his team off to the races to a number 17 ranking. 

This, however, isn’t the first time under Darnell’s tenure Southern hasn’t lost to start the season. The Lions defeated their opponents back in 2015 when Southern started out 16-1, and in 2012 when they started 11-0. 

In sports, it takes a certain mentality and mental strength to pull off such long win streaks. For Darnell’s teams, he stresses teamwork as a foundation. 

“It sounds like coach speak, but honestly we talk about being as good of a teammate as you can with one another, we talk about the way we treat people, and the importance of enjoying someone else’s success,” said Darnell.

This team has great strengths overall as a unit. Their pitching staff holds a 2.25 ERA; the offense also has played big, batting in an average of eight runs per game. 

However, this Lions team has a secret weapon: they get out and run. Coach talked about the rewards that playing fast can have.

“We try to be as aggressive as we can. Runs are always at a premium and so, if you can get a guy in scoring position it only takes one hit instead of two,” said Darnell. 

This season, the Lions have already swiped 40 bases with no intention of stopping. It’s still early on, but this team is showing what they can do when they are clicking on all cylinders. 

Motivation can sometimes be a problem for successful teams, but not a team coached by Darnell. 

“Once a game starts whether you’re ranked first or not ranked at all, it doesn’t matter, you have to handle your business,” said Darnell.

The Lions had a tough road opponent in Emporia State, as they will face off Friday, Feb. 28-March 1. Even with their early success, Darnell stresses to take every game one at a time and to never overlook an opponent. For Southern, it is important their starting pitching travels as Darnell said, “If you can be consistent with your starting pitching you have a chance to be in games.”

With Southern hitting a walk-off home run in the eleventh inning over the weekend to continue their streak, Darnell was confident his team would carry that momentum on to the next series.

“You hope you can gain confidence through all that and the rest of our guys can see the significance of one at bat, and the importance of maintaining a certain approach,” said Darnell. 

The season has arrived and, so far, Southern’s baseball team has come to play, already leading the MIAA conference over second place Central Oklahoma. With a strong overall team led by Darnell’s coaching philosophy, this team has an opportunity to achieve great success and continue their winning ways throughout the year.

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