Trojans sharpen spears for upcoming season
Southwest baseball team looks to improve 8-11 record
Higher expectations are being set for the Southwest baseball team this season, aiming to improve on last year’s 8-11 campaign with stronger pitching and an emphasis on focus.
Kenny Ferguson, entering his 19th year as Trojans baseball head coach, said last season was a roller coaster.
“We were up and down all year and never seemed to be able to get over the hump,” he said. “We competed very well and showed some real promise, just struggled for the consistency we needed. We finished fourth in our conference tournament and fourth in the overall standings. We lost to Pierce City in a very wet district game.”
Following another 8-11 record in the fall baseball season, Ferguson said he hopes the Trojans will benefit from some consistency.
“I am hoping that we can find the consistency that we have lacked lately,” he said. “I am looking forward to this season. Barring injury we should have as much pitching as we have had in a long time. If we can improve our focus, we could be very special defensively. We tend to have lapses at times.
“Our biggest area of improvement needs to be offensively. I really thought that would be a strength in the fall, but I was wrong. As a group, they need to keep a better focus and more of an even keel. We tend to let things bother us and get too down. Baseball is a tough sport and a long game so you can’t let the highs be too high and the lows get you too low.”
Southwest lost three seniors last season in Colten Hignite, Austin Pippin and Ryan Peachee.
“Colten and Austin were four-year starters for us, and Ryan for three years,” Ferguson said. “They helped with some big wins and big moments for us. They stepped in to big roles and were asked to be middle of the order contributors from the start. They all were instant leaders who were looked up to by the other players.”
Replacing the group will be six returning lettermen, only one of whom is a senior.
“[Senior] Cruz [Marquez] has been a four-year starter and an All-Conference All-District 1st team selection each year,” Ferguson said. “Cruz has led us in hitting every year so far, as well as defensively at shortstop. As an all-around player, Cruz has been a steady performer on the mound.
“Cruz doesn’t beat his chest but leads by example. I’m looking forward to seeing what his senior year brings, but will surely miss him when he is gone.”
Marquez, who went 2-2 on the mound in the fall and hit .314 with 22 hits and 11 BI, said he’s ready for his final campaign.
“I’m excited to come into this spring season with guys that are ready to play,” he said. “We have a group of talented players that can make this season memorable. I’m going to do my best to be the leader I know I’m capable of and to keep us all focused at practice and during games.”
Ferguson said junior Brandon Brooks has stepped forward in the fall, claiming second base and solidifying the defense. He hit .220 with 13 hits and 4 RBI.
“He is also becoming more of a weapon offensively out of the 2 hole,” Ferguson said. “I would like to see Brandon be more aggressive at the plate.”
Junior Zak Corwin is a multi-position player and gold glove-caliber defender who will hit third for the Trojans. He was 2-2 with 3 saves in the fall, hitting .270 with 17 hits, 4 RBI and 12 steals.
“He has very good hand eye coordination and needs to be more selective at the plate,” Ferguson said. “He can make contact no matter where the pitch is. I also need to mention he is lightning quick, a very good base runner and base stealer. He became our closer this fall, as he has very good stuff on the mound.”
Junior Coy Shrum is a weapon on offense, according to his coach. He averaged .298 in the fall with 17 hits and 10 RBI.
“Coy is a good defender and when on he can be an offensive weapon,” Ferguson said. “He has good speed and surprising pop for his size. He needs to cut back on his swing and miss ratio.”
Sophomores Brendyn Paulsen and Charlie Pippin wrap up the returning core. Paulsen led in RBI in the fall with 14, adding 17 hits and batting .262. Pippin hit .140 with 7 hits and 5 RBI.
“Brendyn became our No. 1 this fall on the mound,” Ferguson said. “He had some impressive performances this fall. With his [6-5, 200-pound] frame, his desire and his love of baseball, I look forward to seeing what the future holds. He plays a solid first base and hits in the four- and five-hole. Brendyn led us this fall in RBI and also hit his first home run. He needs to quit being so hard on himself and keep more of an even keel.
“Charlie took a huge step forward this fall both offensively as a DH and defensively at 1st base. Charlie needs to become more consistent at the plate.”
Newcomers for the Trojans include five sophomores and five freshmen looking to make an impact, including the starting catcher and right fielder from the last fall season.
Ferguson said with the way the team is trending, a special season could be in the cards.”
“I am looking forward to this season,” he said. “We have a good group of young men who I really enjoy being around. I feel this could be a special season if we can stay healthy and committed.”
The Trojans open the season at home on March 22, facing McAuley Catholic.