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On the Bump – January 24, 2012

Hey everyone and welcome back to another week of “On the Bump”. We had a great week of practice and finished the week with an intrasquad on Saturday. In this week’s installment of the blog, I will give you an inside look at our prior week of practice, introduce you to the 2012 Gents outfield, and explain why I believe our lineup will be one of the best in Division 3 baseball this season.
We had a great week of practice and as a result we played a crisp, smooth, and polished intrasquad. I think guys are really beginning to see how competitive things get when it comes to playing time, and everyone is stepping up their game in hopes of cracking the lineup.

One thing that really stood out to me this past week was our depth. At the beginning of the year, I was concerned about how well our freshmen class would adapt to the speed of the college game. In the fall, you could tell the transition was tough for many of our new guys. However, this past week I saw guys making plays and decisions that were “college-type” plays instead of the “freshman-level” mistakes they made in the fall. Our coaching staff has divided our players into “Team 1″, “Team 2″, and “Team 3″ the past week. “Team 1″ is made up of our tentative starters, while “Team 2″ and “Team 3″ challenge “Team 1″ each day at practice. Our starting lineup is made up of predominantly returners (guys on the team last year) and Junior College transfers. Needless to say, “Team 1″ easily handled the other 2 teams in our scrimmages throughout the fall. Early in the week, Coach Stephens challenged the younger guys to compete and take somebody’s spot. Needless to say, “Team 2″ and “Team 3″ rose to the occasion and defeated “Team 1″ a couple of times this week in our scrimmages. I do not really think our guys stepped up their physical ability, but instead they stepped up their effort, mental game, and baseball IQ. They took pride in their game and as a result they had a great week of practice. I believe our team really turned a corner this week because when “Team 2″ and “Team 3″ play well, it pushes “Team 1″ to step up their game a notch and compete as well. We really played a quality week of baseball and the difference between our practices in early October and mid-January are night and day. I really believe our program has a great future in front of us because our freshmen will continue to grow physically, mentally, and improve their skill set as well.

A few guys that really played well in practice this week were William Fulton, Dakota Brown, Scotty Debrouwer, and Erasmo Valdez. Fulton absolutely took over a scrimmage in the middle of the week by swinging the bat well and playing great defense in left field. He made a catch while diving head first into our bullpen after running about 60 feet to track down the ball. While this may not impress you, take into consideration that the guy had knee surgery in October. It was great to see him out there showing his potential and finally healthy. In the infield, Brown, Debrouwer, and Valdez all played solid defense and looked crisp. You never know who will slump or be injured, so it is really encouraging to see our young freshmen stepping up and taking their game to a new level.

Now, let’s meet the 2012 Centenary Gents outfield. Tyler Clakley has played a great right field all fall for us. He has a very strong arm from the outfield and he has swung the bat well since day 1 in August. We were fortunate to have him transfer in this season from Tyler Junior College. Senior Dan Lazarou returns in center field. Dan saw time in all 3 outfield positions last season, and his experience will be key to our outfield defense’s success. He is 6’6 with good speed, so all the pitchers and myself love having a centerfielder that can cover the spacious outfield of Shehee Stadium. Left field is a little bit of an unknown right now. The starter at that position will likely depend on the health of some our guys come Opening Day, but I am not concerned. I believe that any guy that we put out there will be a great addition to our lineup. Ryan Gasporra and Nick Gobert have both played well in left field since we started up. The rest of our outfield consists of Jemari James, Nic Parrott, Gilbert Boudreaux, Ben Williams, William Fulton, Jake Moore, Timmy Chhor, and Connor McPherson. Jemari will likely fill our Designated Hitter slot, as he has swung a powerful bat all year. Nic Parrott is a 2-way player (pitcher and position player) that will likely be called upon for his speed and defense. Boudreaux transferred in at semester, and he has shown he is capable of earning playing time this season although only being with the program for 2 weeks so far. Ben Williams is a strong freshman that squatted over 500 pounds in the fall and has made great strides as a hitter. As I stated earlier, Fulton just recovered from knee surgery, but he is already making an impact in practice and turning heads. Jake Moore is our resident “string bean” (he is really skinny), but he has really improved his game as well. You can tell he takes pride in getting better each day and he is very coachable. He has earned some reps with “Team 1″ this year because of his ability to do whatever the team needs him to do. Timmy Chhor is our speedster from Carthage, Texas. An interesting fact about Timmy is that he can throw the ball well with either hand. Connor McPherson is new to the outfield, but he swung the bat well all fall. He had a knack for getting clutch hits in the fall, and as a result he is battling for playing time as well.

At the beginning I stated that I believe we will have one of the best lineups in Division 3 this season. While it is a bold claim, I firmly believe that our hitters will prove me right. Every scrimmage is a battle for our pitching staff. There are no easy outs in our starting lineup, and they all have the ability to hit the ball into the gaps for extra bases every time they step into the batter’s box. While it is a given that hitters will have their ups and downs, I believe our lineup is strong enough to pick each other up and help their teammates battle out of slumps. I can’t wait to see what our hitters do to opposing pitching when games start up this fall. Our lineup is so big that Ryan Gasporra decided to nickname our line-up the “Monstars” (in reference to the movie Space Jam). If you do not know who the “Monstars” are, do a quick Google images search. Basically, they are overgrown monsters that dominate basketball. The nickname is appropriate because I think our hitters have the ability to take over games and carry the team.

One thing that makes our lineup so strong is their work ethic. I was really proud of how hard our team worked in the weight room this off-season. We have a really strong team and that numbers our guys threw up on their max-out days for lifting were amazing. If you were to glance at the sheet, you would have thought you were reading the max lifts for squat and bench of a football team. The scary thing is that our team is very young. This means that these guys will only get stronger as they continue their baseball careers. Like I said earlier, the future for our program is bright.

One last thing I would like to mention is our team’s academic performance. Centenary is a fairly challenging institution. We were highlighted by Blake Bourgoyne and Jeff Schaffert earning a spot on the Dean’s List. Blake had a perfect 4.0 GPA, which is tough to do, yet alone in your first semester of college at Centenary. Also, both of these guys are pre-med students and are loaded with tough science courses. I believe they deserve special recognition for performing so well in the classroom given the difficulty of their workload. It’s not easy being a student-athlete, but I am glad our team is learning to take pride in their academics. For example, guys that made under a 2.0 GPA last semester don’t get to practice with the team on Mondays. Instead, they get to attend study hall. Our coaching staff has taken it upon themselves to ensure that we develop as men, students, and baseball players. Study hall is not a punishment, but rather a chance to re-prioritize your academics and improve your academics.

Opening Day is 11 days away and I know our guys are ready to get out there and compete. Check back next week to hear about another week of practice and to meet our 2012 pitchers and catchers. Go Gents!