Let the games begin

First home pitch flies Feb. 21 against Radford

As the crack of a bat begins to echo throughout the hills of Lynchburg, sounding the beginning of a new baseball season, no team is more eager to “Base Up” than the Liberty University Flames Baseball team. From their two previous record setting seasons and high preseason rankings in the Big South Conference, they have set their sights high as they cross the chalk into the 2012 season.

Machine — The Flames have scored 43 runs in four games to open the season. Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

Practice has been going well for the Flames, head coach Jim Toman said.

“We’ve been blessed. This is probably the best weather that we’ve ever had. We’re usually shoveling snow or dodging rain at this point in the season,” Toman said. “We haven’t missed any time on the field. Our guys are tired of playing each other and they’re ready to play someone with another name on their uniform.”

Toman is hoping to improve from the first time they step on the field. However, with all the new talent and a few changes in the coaching staff, it may take a few weeks to get everything dialed in. Like most coaches in the beginning weeks of the season, he is concentrating on fine-tuning the teams pitching to make for a dependable bullpen. The captains, Michael Robertson and Trey Wimmer, expressed the team’s tenacity and excitement about their first series of games that was played over the weekend.

“We’re going to get off to a hot start and not look back. Just keep on winning. That’s the only goal we’ve got,” Robertson said.

With the least amount of returning players of any team in the conference, the season is shaping up to be a challenging one. The Flames have had a great fall and spring and they have 19 possible players to fill 10 pitching positions.

“You always look to the next game and, obviously, we play some good teams on our schedule,” Toman said. “We play Virginia and North Carolina, two teams that have been in the College World Series, and St. John’s, who’s ranked highly in the Big East this year. Coastal comes here this year and they are the team to beat.

They’ve been to numerous Regionals in a row and they’ve been in the top 25 in the country. We’ve been close to beating them. Last year we had two to three, one run games. The guys are looking forward to the season and the coaches in the Big South picked us second again. People know we’re going to be good.”

The Flames’ past seasons have been record setting. In the past two years they have had seven players drafted into the majors. Last year they had 42 wins. This year, they are looking for much more.

“We understand that we are setting records but what we got to do is get into a regional,” Toman said. “We want to get into the NCAA and into the national scene. In order to do that, there’s going to have to be a lot of new guys to step up.”

The Flames’ captains are pushing the team to focus on the midweek games this year. They believe that that is the key to getting a regional bid. Robertson believes that they will be competitive with every team that they play this year and their scrappy attitude will give them an edge to keep on winning.

The Flames home opener is a conference game against Radford University Feb. 21 at 3 p.m.

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