It is no secret that it was a disappointing season for the Chaparral men’s baseball team last year.
The team finished the year with an 8-29 record and did not make any waves in postseason play.
With head coach Kevin Tyrrell going into his second year, he has hopes for major improvement.
“Last year’s team had a lot of holes and we did our best recruiting wise to fill those holes,” Tyrrell said.
One of these holes was found in the middle infield where shortstop Kyle Hunsinger already has the starting job but the second base position is boiling down to either second year Chaps player Zach Jarosz or freshman transfer Matt Soria.
“Kyle Hunsinger is, in my opinion, the best defensive shortstop in the region,” Tyrrell said.
“… [Soria] and Zach are both pushing for time at second base, but if Zach doesn’t win that job, he might play corner infield for us or even some outfield.”
As the baseball team for a community college, Tyrrell and assistant coach Mark De Leo can expect to lose several players season after season as they transfer to different schools.
When this happens coupled with the loss of key players due to academic reasons, a team could be left with difficult situations like one of the starting pitchers also being your right fielder, as is the case with the Chaps.
“That’s the nature of the beast,” Tyrrell said. “Without scholarships you can’t expect to have depth, you can hope for it but can’t expect it.”
However, a coach will always hold his breath for those players who will return and provide not only depth but also leadership.
It may be a stretch to label them as veterans but they do possess the experience of having already played a season of Chaparral baseball and have a better understanding of the program.
Tyrrell pinpointed three specific players that could qualify as these team veterans: Zach Jarosz, Kelton Zimmerman and Mack Mondala.
He commented on the players’ versatility and talent on the field and looks for them to be leaders this season.
Unfortunately, the season has not started how the Chaps would have liked it to as they lost a doubleheader to Kirkwood College Monday night 9-0 and 10-1.
“They are a real good division II team, if they don’t compete for a national championship I’d be very shocked,” Tyrrell said.
“They were sharp, they were polished and we were fresh out of an indoor facility.”
The good news is Tyrrell has a feeling the Kirkwood squad will be the best team they face all season, along with their games against Heartland, Lincoln land and Madison.
The bad news is eight of the team’s first ten games are against the toughest teams so it could potentially be a very shaky start for the Chaps.
“That’s sort of by design; we start off against the toughest competition so we know where we need to be by the end of the season,” Tyrrell said.
The coach also added that the regional play is where the team would like to be most successful.
“If you win a regional you go to the world series. So if we’re playing our best baseball in early may then we have to be happy with that,” Tyrrell said.
Not only will the Chaps being facing off against some of their toughest opponents to start the season but they will also play every one of these early season games on the road.
Of course, this will be a chance for the players to build their team chemistry as they will spend at least the first month of the season travelling to various away games.
Tyrrell, drawing from his own experiences, believes that is on these long road trips when the team develops that essential sense of camaraderie.
“I think that a lot of the guys I played with look back and the time we spent in the vans or the bus were some of our fondest memories,” Tyrrell said.
Still, the coach recognizes that travelling does take a toll on the players in addition to having to balance their class schedules. But this is the life of a student athlete.
As far as the rest of the season is concerned, Tyrrell hopes to improve each game but understands the first several games will provide a great challenge.
“It’s not that hard to fathom starting the season 0-13 or 0-14,” Tyrrell said. “If that happens then there will definitely be some disappointment because teams need to learn how to win, but it leaves us with a hole to dig out of.”
“Coach [De Leo] and I were talking and it sounds really low in our standards, but we’d be happy with a .500 season.”
The Chaps’ next game will be at Johnson County as they travel to Kansas for a weekend series.