With their road series win over Bradley this past weekend and with Missouri State coming to town for three games starting Friday, the sky appears to be the limit for the University of Evansville baseball team.
"We're putting it together in all three phases of the game right now," said University of Evansville baseball head coach Wes Carroll.
"It really is nice to see things come together," said University of Evansville senior outfielder Kenton Crews.
"We're just trying to have fun out here and win a bunch of baseball games," said University of Evansville senior outfielder Troy Beilsmith.
And the University of Evansville baseball team is doing both in impressive fashion. Winners of nine of their last ten, head coach Wes Carroll's Aces are are off to one of their best starts in years. It all starts on the hill, where reigning Missouri Valley Conference Pitcher of the Week Shane Gray leads a staff that has been clutch for much of the season.
"What we're getting out of our starting pitching has been pretty consistent and has put us in a position to win ball games," said Carroll. The biggest thing I'm seeing is that we're having guys step up out of the bullpen and really bridge the gap to our closer, Jakob Meyer."
"The skies the limit," said University of Evansville sophomore pitcher Shane Gray. "We have some pretty good underclassmen, that are stepping up into some big roles, that I feel we haven't had in the past, and our bullpen's looking really good this year."
There is, of course, the new turf at German American Field at Braun Stadium, which has turned the UE defense from question mark to exclamation point.
"It brings back the fun in baseball, because it takes out all the question marks," said Crews, "like "Oh gosh, is this ball going to hop up and hit me in the face", "Am I going to step in a hole and break my ankle"."
"It's awesome," said Beilsmith. "It's consistent and I think the consistency of the field is going to help with the consistency of our team. We don't have to go out of town to play home games. We get to play here all the time. We get to come out here and practice on it all the time. The field is a total game-changer than what we've had before."
However, the heart of this team is it's veterans, like Kenton Crews, who is currently leading leading the MVC in batting, slugging percentage and triples, and Troy Beilsmith who is at or near the top in nearly every offensive category. Players who have battled both injury and disappointment to team with freshman like Simon Scherry to deliver this strong start.
"I think I've always had it in me, but it's just finding the right state of mind, the right confidence, the right approach and the right guys around you," said Crews. "It really, really helps with the confidence part of the game, knowing that they have my back and that they're going to be there for me no matter what I do. So it really takes a heavy load off."
"It's just about having fun, and the COVID situation just kind of put me in a different perspective coming back," said Beilsmith. "And it really just allowed me to free up myself and say "What have I got to lose". And just come out and just try to play loose and play free, and play good baseball again."
"If you're seeing what we're getting out Kenton Crews, Troy Beilsmith," said Carroll, "just guys who have been in our program for many years, have been through some tough times and have been through the grind of the regular season, can really help lead our younger guys how to navigate themselves."