After a surprising third-place finish in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament in 2015, the Belmont baseball team is hoping to build off the momentum for a successful 2016 season.
Belmont head coach Dave Jarvis believes the leadership of the upperclassmen on the team will be a major factor for success this season.
“We have got some really good senior leadership. Aaron Quillen will be a leader for us on the mound, no doubt about that. He is the team captain and does a great job for us,” said Jarvis. “I think both senior Desi Ammons and junior Clay Paine behind the plate, give us really strong athleticism and leadership back there as well. And of course, Tyler Fullerton. He’s an awfully good returning player from last year.”
In the OVC preseason poll, the Bruins were picked to finish fifth in the conference. Senior pitcher Aaron Quillen and senior infielder Tyler Fullerton were named to the preseason All-OVC team.
The Bruins hope to improve on their record from 2015 where the team went 29-29. The 2015 season featured wins over national powerhouse Vanderbilt University and eventual OVC champion Morehead State, but the season ended with a loss in the semifinals of the OVC conference tournament to Southeast Missouri.
“I think we underachieved as a team last year,” said Quillen. “Part of our thinking process this year is we want to max out our potential and be as good as we can,”
An important focus for Belmont has been working together as a team and not making games about personal statistics.
“Everybody has to do their own job. We can’t go out there and try to beat them ourselves. It’s a team game,” said Quillen. “I have to go out and trust the other eight guys around me and vice versa. We have to beat them as a team, not by ourselves.”
One of the most prominent games on the schedule will be when the team plays the Vanderbilt University Commodores on March 29 at First Tennessee Park, home of the Nashville Sounds.
“It’s another college baseball game. We can’t make it out it be more than that. But we do get an opportunity to showcase both of our programs in a tremendous pro park out here in the city of Nashville,“ said Jarvis.
In 2015, the Bruins swept their two games against a Commodores team which made it to the College World Series finals.
“I think it will be fun. It will be a nice atmosphere out there, getting in a minor league park. I hope the fans get to come out and support on both sides. Playing at Vandy is always fun, It was fun playing there last year. Playing here too,” said Quillen.
However, with more than 50 games on the schedule, the players are intent on not focusing on any games in particular.
“You just have to take each game as it comes and you can’t focus on somebody down the road. You have to focus on the next game,” said Fullerton. “We play our kind of baseball and we can play with anyone in the country.”
Belmont will open its season with a three-game weekend series against Illinois State University at Rose Park. Games are scheduled for Friday at 4 p.m., Saturday at 12 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.
This article was written by Shelby Vandenbergh.