For the first time in awhile, expectations are high for Tabor College baseball.
Coming into the season picked third by the KCAC?coaches, second-year coach Mark Standiford and the Bluejays have their eyes on the postseason.
?We want to compete in the KCAC?not only do we want to compete there, we want to compete on a regional basis,? Standiford said. ?Our ultimate goal is to compete in the world series. That?s why we?re here.?
In Standiford?s first season, the Bluejays improved by five wins and earned a trip to the KCAC tournament. Tabor upset Friends 10-7 in the opening game with a comeback victory.
Returning to Tabor?s roster from last season are six seniors who Standiford looks to for leadership. Those seniors have led Tabor to a 14-9 record overall and a 3-1 start in the KCAC.
The Bluejays opened KCAC?play by splitting a doubleheader against Sterling, the preseason KCAC favorite.
Despite the early success, Tabor is not taking anyone lightly.
?It?s going to be tough every week,? said Standiford. ?You?re going to have to be tough and ready to play. I?think we have a team that can compete in the KCAC, but we?ve got to do things right.
Tabor?s starting rotation consists of one senior and three newcomers. The only experienced pitcher in the regular starting rotation is senior Andrew Cook, who is 1-1 in four starts with a 3.65 earned-run average. Cook has struck out nine batters and walked six.
The top newcomer has been Zach Cremers. The sophomore from Ponca City, Okla., boasts a 1.20 ERA in four starts. Cremers (1-1) has struck out 10 hitters while walking eight.
Another newcomer, Wichita sophomore Jonathan Murray (1-1) has a 4.50 ERA in four starts with eight strikeouts, 13 walks.
Rounding out the rotation is William Wood. The freshman from Combine, Texas, has started three games and posted an ERA of 7.24. He is 0-1 with eight strikeouts and four walks.
Tyler Fenton, Nick Trompert and Wes Stancher have also started games this season. Stancher has six appearances and three starts. At 2-1, the junior from Shawnee Mission has an ERA of 3.57. Opponents are batting .217 against him.
The bullpen is led by 2009 first-team all-KCAC relief pitcher Paul Bridenbaugh. Working in the closer role with a 2-0 record, Bridenbaugh has yet to give up an earned run this season in five appearances. He has chalked up two saves, allowing batters to hit .154.
In the field and at the plate, the Bluejays are lead by senior Tyson Kendrich, a first-team all-KCAC catcher.
So far this season, Kendrich is 11th in the NAIA in batting average at 493. He leads Tabor in hits (34), doubles (10), runs batted in (28) and on-base percentage (.580).
C.J. Henrichsen, a second-team all-KCAC utility player last season, is second in team batting (.359), hits (23) and on-base percentage (.494) .
The outfield is led defensively by Dustin Dick, a gold glove recipient who received KCAC honorable mention in 2009.
Tabor has also gotten contribution from Goddard freshmen Taylor Douglas and Nathan Rausch. Rausch leads the Bluejays in home runs with five.
Junior newcomer Jake Mays will see time at catcher and designated hitter.
One noticeable absence from this year?s team is junior infield Tanner Stevenson. The KCAC honorable-mention second baseman in 2009 has not played this season and will miss about 40 games due to a broken wrist.
?He was a major part of our team last year,? Standiford said. ?We expected good things from him this year and he?s not been able to hit.?
Tabor lacks players who consistently hit for power, but that hasn?t kept the Bluejays from scoring runs. Through 23 games Tabor is averaging 6.62 run per game. The high production is due to Standiford?s strategy.
?We bunch hits, a few guys can run, and we bunt a little bit too,? Standiford said. ?We play small ball.?
But at home games, ?everybody?s a home run threat on this field because of the dimensions.?