BY SCOTT WILSON
There have been a lot of changes happening recently in the baseball program at Tennessee Tech University. There are new uniforms, there have been renovations to the facilities and, probably the biggest change of all, former Baylor University coach Steve Smith is now at the helm.
So when the Golden Eagles open the 2020 season Saturday at home against Evansville University, the purple and gold will be looking to begin the Smith Era at TTU with a victory.
“I think all things considered, weather and everything else, preseason work has gone well,” said Smith. “We don’t have a lot of guys banged up and it seems like we’re fairly healthy. It seems like the biggest concern for us, the biggest question mark is on the mound.”
Tech’s series with the Aces begins Saturday with a doubleheader, the first pitch slated for noon. The second game will follow and is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Sunday’s finale is scheduled for 1 p.m.
The Golden Eagles will be trying to recover from last year’s disappointing 22-32 record. As a team, Tech hit .271 for the year, but opponents were even better, batting .280 overall. The Golden Eagles’ pitching staff finished 2019 with a 6.62 earned run average.
“We haven’t had much opportunity for an inter-squad, so I haven’t seen the pitchers against live hitters,” Smith said. “Looking at the numbers from a year ago and from what I have seen from the hitters, we do have a chance to be offensive. I am just not sure how we will pitch. We’re probably going to run guys out there and see who rises to the top.”
Smith also said the lineup in the field for this weekend should be solid. He said he’s been going over evaluations from his staff and comparing those to what he sees in practice before finally making his decision for Saturday’s lineup card.
The Evansville Aces will be coming into tomorrow’s games trying to improve on a 24-29 record in 2019. The Aces return their top pitcher in Nathan Croner and their top hitter in Tanner Craig. Evansville hit a respectable .240 last year as a team and earned a 4.82 ERA.
“We will have a little bit of a report on Evansville,” Smith said. “I think they have a handful of guys returning from last year. We will have a feel for them, but when most people play it is not who they’re playing as opposed to playing the game itself. That is absolutely the key for us.”
Smith said he will be keeping close watch on his players this weekend as he and his staff are still learning about their team. Besides obviously wanting to win the series, the coach said he also wants to see which players are ready to compete.
“I think some guys look one way in a practice situation and completely different in competition,” Smith said. “I am anxious to see that.”