Junior catcher Tyler Latham after an at bat/ photo courtesy of Triangle archives
The AAC at the start of April
The Bryan Lions baseball team will open their last month of play Wednesday, April 3, against Oakwood College (Huntsville, Ala.).
This season has had its ups and downs, including a five game losing streak over spring break.
The Lions are currently 18-16 overall, 6-9 in the AAC. Compared to last year, at this point, they were 29-11 overall and 11-4 in the AAC.
The biggest difference between last year and this year, has been the conference play. The Lions dropped key series against Virginia Intermont College (Bristol, Va.), Tennessee Wesleyan College (Athens, Tenn.) and Reinhardt University (Waleska, Ga.) during the month of March.
The Lions, however, are not out of the race for the AAC or the AAC Tournament.
They play three very important series against St. Andrews University (Laurinburg, N.C.), Milligan College (Tenn.) and Point University (East Point, Ga.). All three of these teams sit right above the Lions in the AAC standings. St. Andrews, however, is the only team that has a better overall record than the Lions. Point University faces Tennessee Wesleyan early this month, which could help the Lions in the AAC standings.
At this point, the Lions sit five and a half games back from Tennessee Wesleyan in the AAC standings. This month Tennessee Wesleyan, besides facing Point, also faces Reinhardt, Montreat College (N.C.), and Virginia Intermont. If Wesleyan wins out that would help the Lions’ AAC standing, given they win out as well.
Key to Success?
One of the many keys to the Lions’ success and hopes of finishing the season strong, is junior catcher Tyler Latham.
Latham ranks eighth in NAIA Division 1 in Total Doubles (15), twenty-fifth in Home Runs (5), twenty-sixth in Total Runs Batted In (34), and twenty-eight in Batting Average (0.419).
Latham leads the Lions in Batting Average, Runs Batted In, Doubles, Slugging Percentage, and is tied for first for Total Hits.
When looking at the Lions’ season so far, an interesting statistic stands out.
In the 16 games that the Lions have lost, Latham has batted .370 with four RBIs and three Runs.
On the other hand, in the 18 games that the Lions have won, Latham batted .481 with 27 RBIs and 12 Runs.
Obviously all parts of a team—pitchers, fielders and batters—are crucial for the team to win. The pressure for success should not be totally on any one player.
However, when there is a player that can change the game single-handedly (like Latham did Saturday with his walk-off grand slam) that player is needed to be at his best as the season ends and the tournament approaches. Latham’s ability to put the ball into play and drive in runs is very crucial to the Lions’ success and ability to win out this month and go deep into the tournament.
A Word from Coach Hasty
I asked baseball head coach Taylor Hasty what he expected from the team as they close out the season.
He said, “We have experienced a lot of growth this season and I expect that over the last month of the season for the team to begin to peak and get hot as we head into post season play.”
One of the issues the Lions have had this season has been the pitching staff—there have been several blown saves and poor performances from the starting rotation. I asked Hasty what the importance of a strong closer and bullpen meant to the team.
“The bullpen always plays a key role in a team’s success because in order to win games you have to be good on the mound late in the game. While we have had some shifting roles this year and battled some injuries, I believe our pitching staff has improved as the season has gone along and will be ready to be great down the stretch and into the postseason. Our bullpen will play a key role in our success both in these last regular season games and especially come tournament time.”
Finally Hasty talked about the tournament and what it would take for the Lions to go deep in the AAC tournament.
“In tournament play it is always important to have a team that plays selfless baseball. A team that is able to work together offensively and have great pitching and defense is able to be very successful in the postseason. I believe we have a roster of young men who are willing to do what it takes to be successful and make a lot of noise in the conference tournament and beyond.”
The Lions face off against Hiwassee College (Monroe, Tenn.) Friday, April 5, at 6 p.m. and then again on Saturday at 1 p.m.
Be there to cheer on your Lions as they look to finish the season strong.