Jaguars want to get back to winning ways
By BY MIKE FORMAN - MFORMAN@VICAD.COM
Feb. 2, 2013 at 10:01 p.m.
Updated Feb. 1, 2013 at 8:02 p.m.
Chad Kruse has a new look and he hopes the same is true for the UHV baseball team.
Kruse is sporting facial hair as the Jaguars open the 2013 season Sunday at noon with a doubleheader against Wiley College at Riverside Stadium.
"I'm going to give the beard a shot," Kruse said, "and see if it can bring some power to the table."
Kruse was a first-team all-conference selection last season after leading UHV in hits (55), doubles (12), triples (4), total bases (90), and slugging percentage (.577).
But Kruse's success at the plate wasn't contagious and the Jaguars finished with a losing record (20-29) for the first time and failed to qualify for the Association of Independent Institutions tournament.
UHV will host the tournament this season, assuring itself of a bid, but Kruse doesn't believe the team will need the automatic qualifying spot.
"I don't think we're really lacking much," he said. "We have guys who are going to hit for power, we've got some speed. I just think this year we have a different swagger about it. We have a lot more confidence and everybody is expecting to do good things. I think that's going to show."
UHV coach Terry Puhl enters his sixth season needing one win to pick up career victory No. 150.
"I do expect them to play at a quality level," said Puhl, who has been the coach since the program started in 2008. "There's nothing more we can practice. Now, it's time to play games. There's no reason why these guys can't go out there and put on a good show."
Nick Huff will be the starting pitcher for the Jaguars in Game 1 and Cory Carter will take the mound in Game 2, and both will be on a strict pitch count.
UHV will field a lineup with a mix of veterans and newcomers, including returning starters Kruse, Brandon Bohanon, Ryan Suescun, Josh Ledesma and Tyler Steiner.
"We don't see a hole in our lineup this year," Kruse said. "We think 1 through 9 and even a couple of guys off the bench are going to help us out a lot. I expect 10 or 11 guys to put up pretty good offensive numbers this year."
The Jaguars will go into the season with nine freshmen on the roster. Puhl has been particularly pleased with Dylan Blaha, who came to UHV from Weimar and will start at shortstop.
"His ability to hit," Puhl said. "I think he'll vastly improve at shortstop. His hitting, I've been really impressed."
UHV and Wiley will play for the first time. The Wildcats were scheduled to open the season with a doubleheader against LSU-Alexandria on Wednesday in Marshall, but the games were postponed because of rain.
"I don't know much about them," Puhl said. "In cases like that what you've got to do is stay aggressive and take the game to them.
"This is not a practice game. I'm playing to win it. But I'm going to play to win it in a fashion that I develop and watch my players, especially my pitching staff."