ULM kicks off Fall Practice

FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE

ULMBaseballPractice MONROE, La.—Coming off its best back-to-back seasons since 2000 and 2001, the ULM baseball team has begun its preparations for the 2010 season as the Warhawks are a week into fall practice.

“Things are going well so far,” head coach Jeff Schexnaider said. “We have a great group of seniors who are leading by example on the field. We are excited about the new guys that have come in this season. Not only are they talented baseball players, but they are also extremely hard workers. We have a lot of depth this season, which has provided competition at a lot of positions.”

Over the past two seasons the Warhawks have captured the 2008 Sun Belt Conference regular season championship, advanced to the 2009 Sun Belt Tournament Championship Game and won a combined 66 games.

ULM returns five position players that saw substantial action in 2009 and two others that would have been in the starting lineup if injuries hadn’t ended their seasons. Boomer Blanchard, Nick Wade, Matt Laird and Perry Smith all return as senior starters for the Warhawks, while sophomore Chris Sinclair played in 20 games and made 10 starts in 2009.

Senior Josh Chappell was ULM’s opening-day starter as the designated hitter, but was lost for the season due to an injury in the opening game. Junior Josh Gill was also a projected starter last season, but was lost for the year due to an injury.

“Having all of these guys returning makes everyone move a little faster,” Schexnaider said. “They already know the system so they are able to help teach the younger guys how we play the game.”

The Warhawks also return a handful of pitchers that have been through the tough Sun Belt Conference schedule. The conference has ranked among the top eight in the nation in eight of the past nine years, including each of the last five seasons.

Senior Don Williams, who earned three-consecutive Louisiana Pitcher of the Week honors last season, senior Corey Brown, senior Josh Miller and junior Jordy Poche anchor the Warhawk pitching staff. The Warhawks will also welcome back senior Derek Ward, who missed the majority of the 2009 season due to injury.

“Hopefully the strength of our team this year will be our pitching staff,” Schexnaider said. “We have a group of really talented pitchers and they are going to have to compete on the mound to see who can give us the best chance to win.”

Schexnaider hired one of the top pitching coaches in the country over the summer when he brought in Lantz Wheeler from Lipscomb University. Wheeler groomed Rex Brothers into one of the top pitchers in the nation as he was the 34th overall pick in the 2009 Major League Baseball Draft in June.

“Lantz has done a great job working with our pitchers,” Schexnaider said. “He is an extremely hard worker and the players understand that he can make them better pitchers.”

ULM welcomes 16 new players to the roster this season with eight freshman and eight junior college transfers. The recruiting class was recognized as one of the best in the nation by Collegiate Baseball.

Fall practice culminates with the annual Maroon & Gold Blood Series at Warhawk Field from Nov. 9-14. The seniors split the team into two squads and then play a best-of-five series with the losing team donating blood to a Monroe-area blood bank.