I was able to sit down with Coach Harpenau before the Lions Baseball team left on its road trip to Arkadelphia, Ark. to open up the 2014 season against Henderson State University. Last season the Lions finished second in the Heartland conference and 29-20 overall. That included a 0-2 showing at the conference tournament. Coach Harpenau made it clear that the goal of making it back and advancing even farther is reachable. “We have a club that is capable to go out and compete for a championship, but there are other teams in the league that feel the same way.” Picked to finish third in the preseason polls, the Lions will also get an easier start to their season this year. Last season the Lions opened on the road at St. Mary’s in San Antonio. St. Mary’s was ranked #1 in the nation at that time. The Lions won the series by taking two of three games. This year the Lions open up with three non-conference series before conference play begins on February 21. “It gives us a chance to throw a lot of guys the first few weeks, see what we have, and watch pitch counts”, Coach said about the advantages of not starting conference play until the end of February. Harpenau also said that even with the loss of ace Hasten Freeman for the year (ACL), the Lions still have a deep pitching staff. A few players that are expected to step in are Jordan Cordray (Houston) and Wayde Roth (St. Genevieve, Mo.). Perhaps the toughest portion of the schedule for the Diamond Lions will be March 14 through April 5 when they take on St. Mary’s, University of Texas Permian Basin, and St. Edwards in successive home conference series. The Diamond Lions also face Northeastern State and Ouachita Baptist during the home stretch.
The Diamond Lions were able to sweep a two game doubleheader from Henderson State on opening weekend. Bad weather forced the three game series to be reduced to just two. The Diamond Lions won game one 4-3, and game two 7-3. Jordan Cordray won his UAFS debut going 4 2/3 innings allowing three earned runs on three hits before giving way to reliever Jordan Hammer. Hammer worked 2 1/3 scoreless innings to earn the save. In game two, Darrin Pittman earned the win in relief allowing no runs on two hits in four innings.
The Diamond Lions, who started the season 3-0 for the first time since joining NCAA Division II, have since gone 1-4 in road trips to the University of Central Oklahoma and Southeastern Oklahoma State University. They will return to action against Oklahoma Panhandle State to open conference play at home with a doubleheader at 12pm on Friday, February 21.
For Schedule information visit: http://www.uafortsmithlions.com/schedule.aspx?path=baseball&schedule=51&