Statesmen working hard in fall practice
By Andy Collier
Sports Editor, The Bolivar Bullet
Like many teams, the Delta State University Statesmen had their baseball season in 2020 cut short in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Statesmen finished the shortened year at 13-10 with a 6-6 mark in the Gulf South Conference under Rodney Batts, who took over as head coach after long time skipper Mike Kinnison stepped down to focus on his duties as the school’s director of athletics.
Seven months later, the Statesmen are back on the diamond working hard during fall practice to prepare for the 2021 season which is set to begin on February. Delta State began fall practice on Sept. 17 and will conclude it on Oct. 31. DSU has been having scrimmages and is set to have its Green and White World Series on Oct. 24.
Batts, who is in his second year, has been pleased with being able to practice during this time of the pandemic.
“It’s certainly been good to get back on the field and get to work after being off for so long from March all the way until school started,” said Batts. “We were even shut down there for a couple of weeks as soon as our guys got back. We got through that and everybody is healthy now. Hopefully, we’ll stay that way. It’s been good to get back on the field and get to work with our guys.”
Batts felt the fall, so far, has been kind of a feeling out process for the team.
“For us, we’re just trying to get out and learn what they can do,” said Batts. “We know what they can do through the recruiting process and guys returning, but we’re trying to get a feel for where they’ll help the team whether that’s where they’re normally used to playing or at a different position. We’re just trying to fit the pieces in the best we can. We’re just trying to learn as much about them as we can and then they’re trying to learn each other. It’s a team sport, so the more they can bond, the more they get together, the more they learn each other and know what makes each other click, the better we’ll be.”
Batts said the pandemic makes the bonding aspect a little tricky.
“This is a little bit different this fall than normal, because we have to keep them separated a little bit and they have to be careful what they do off the field,” said Batts. “Hopefully, there’s not a whole lot of gatherings. In the past, guys have gotten to hang out at each other’s house and get to know each other. This is a little bit different situation. The only time they’re around each other a whole lot is when they’re on the field, so they have to be more receptive to that and knowing this is the team we’ve got. They get to learn each other and be with each other as much as they can on the field. I hope there’s not a lot of that going on outside of the field”
As far as which players are standing out, it’s still too early to tell at this point. It’s also still a little early to tell what aspect of the game is the team’s strong suit.
“It’s like a typical fall,” said Batts. “You go out one day and you scrimmage. I don’t think you ever feel good about scrimmaging in the fall. If you swing the bats well then you don’t feel as good about your pitching. If you pitch really well then you don’t feel well about your hitting. I don’t think one is above the other right now. Some days, we’re more offensive. Other days, we’re better on the mound. That’s a good thing. I think it’s been a competitive environment this fall. I think our guys have competed for the most part, and we’re about halfway through it. There’s been positive signs but at the same time there’s still a lot to work on between now and February.”
With the pandemic abruptly ending 2020, players for that season were able to keep their year of eligibility heading into 2021.
“We have five seniors who would have been seniors last year,” said Batts. “They came back for another senior year in what would have been a year where we would have had a lot of seniors. We were heavy in the junior class last year, and they’re juniors again. It is a little bit different in the regard. Some guys are going to get their degrees after this year. We’ve had conversations with them about what they will do. Some guys will take their extra year. Some guys will graduate and probably move on. We may not even know some of that stuff until later on in the spring or after the season is over. It’s something we have to deal with through out the year.”