Mules baseball suffered a disappointing end to last season with a third-place finish in the MIAA Tournament.
Fielding mostly the same core of players, Central Missouri is headed to their first NCAA Division II College World Series appearance since 2013 today in Cary, North Carolina, behind second-head head coach Kyle Crookes.
Crookes said establishing a team identity in the last year helped accommodate development.
“We defined what was important to us and what we were, in terms of personality,” Crookes said. “It takes some time to change or to adjust to the change. I think that was a big part of the process. Beyond that it’s the grinds of practice and games.
“There was a big learning curve. A change in coaching staff, style, a lot of the players that were here had some growing to do. If you want to call it under construction, sure, but it’s a very similar group of players.”
Tyler House, the expected starter today against the Lander Bearcats, is 7-2 with a 4.33 ERA entering the College World Series. Crookes used the word “preliminary” when naming his starter Wednesday by phone. He said the team has options.
“Coach (Damian) Stambersky’s done a tremendous job with the pitching staff and gave us options up and down, and that’s a good problem to have,” Crookes said. “It’s a good situation to be in.”
That same flexibility has also defined the Mules’ offense. Central Missouri hits .306 as a team with 93 doubles, and 72 home runs. Bennett Oliver set a school record with 24 homers, while the team also swiped 96 bases this season.
Crookes said the UCM offense focused on finer aspects going into their matchup with No. 4-ranked Lander.
“I think we’re always a work in progress we have to continue to work on the details of the game, offensively and defensively,” Crookes said. “We want to make sure we’re sharp on baserunning and short game.
“Our team does whatever’s required to win the game.”
First pitch in Cary is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Our team does whatever’s required to win the game.
Alex Agueros can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @abagueros2