The Western Kentucky baseball team will wrap up its first week of practice this weekend as the Hilltoppers prepare for opening day 2013.
The home opener against Bowling Green State is two weeks away and the Hilltoppers are already busy battling each other – and the elements.
“Really, all we’ve been able to do is scrimmage,” WKU coach Matt Myers said. “Mother nature has kicked us off the field every day outside of (Tuesday). Just trying to get as many days on the field as possible.”
Coming off a 25-33 season, the Hilltoppers have 10 true freshmen on the roster and four transfers. While those players adjust to the WKU system, Myers is also hoping to keep the pitching staff healthy and intact, which didn’t happen in 2012.
“I’m just getting back in the groove of things,” redshirt junior left-hander Tanner Perkins said. “It’s springtime. Everybody is going back to school. Everybody is getting in the rotation of class and practice and everything. Season is just two weeks away, so got to get ready.”
Perkins had elbow surgery last season, but is expected to be one of the Tops’ main weapons on the mound.
Myers said the Rockcastle County High School product will be ready to go come first pitch.
“Feeling really good, actually,” Perkins said. “It’s a blessing to be back this early. Every day is a grind just trying to get back out there and getting used to being on the field with the other guys.”
Perkins will be a part of the team’s strong point – the pitching staff. Junior Justin Hageman, seniors Taylor Haydel and Tim Bado, redshirt sophomore Austin Clay and sophomore Ian Thompkins all pitched significant innings last season.
Myers said defense will also be a strength of the team, and while the offense may take a little while to catch up, he was pleasantly surprised by the way his club showed up to camp swinging the bats.
“Usually you go backwards to go forward because you go over that break and guys take some time off. Our guys didn’t,” he said. “But from a work ethic standpoint, we’ve played about as two good scrimmages as we’ve played yet. First week, I thought the pitchers would be way ahead of the hitters and they weren’t. I think we might have made one error. You’re not supposed to have games like that.
“That’s a testament to our guys coming back in great shape and focused and ready to go.”
Western Kentucky plays 15 of its first 23 games at home, including six in a row to start the year. The season opens at 3 p.m. Feb. 15 against BGSU.
“What I’m looking for now is guys to continue to compete and get things cleaned up,” Myers said. “We’re trying to get pitch counts up. Last week we got nine at-bats for our top 15 guys. Then going through the signs and getting in the system so we’re not missing signs on opening day. Going through the little things.”