Baseball | 02.05.2022
CHRISTIAN LUBBOCK (0-0, 0-0) vs.
ARKANSAS-FORT SMITH (0-0, 0-0)
Sunday, February 7 – 1 p.m. (DH)
Hays Field – Lubbock, Texas
The weather in Lubbock (and much of Texas) this week certainly isn’t enticing, but it’s (finally) officially baseball season. In fact, the weather has already affected the series, pushing back an entire day to avoid playing in the sub-freezing temperatures expected for much of Friday, which was originally scheduled as opening day. Lubbock Christian University will begin its 2022 campaign and the 52nd season in program history at 2 p.m. Saturday, hosting Arkansas-Fort Smith at Hays Field for a four-game series. The Chaparrals finished the 2021 season with a 23-24 overall record and fired much of the roster from a year ago, while adding a number of impact newcomers.
THE NEW CHAPARRAL
- The Chaps have won seven of their last 11 games in 2021, reaching the LSC Tournament Championship Game
- LCU fires six of eight players with the most starts in each position a year ago
- The last time Lubbock Christian started the season at home was in 2018, when they hosted Regis
- 48 of the 50 regular season games scheduled for the Chaps will be Lone Star Conference games
- Arkansas-Fort Smith finished eighth in LSC last year with an overall record of 14-19
- LCU posted an ERA of 6.09 employees in 404.2 innings during the 2021 season
- Infielder Carson Ogilvie was recognized as an impact transfer to watch by the D-II report
- The Chaps hit .301 as a team last year and smashed 72 LSC-leading home runs
Let’s go for the Chaps, who are enjoying their last start to the season since 2018, when opening day was February 9 against Régis. The last LCU to start a season was in 1973, when the season opener wasn’t played until March 12. seasons under head coach Nathan Blackwood. The Chaps dropped last year’s season opener against Central Missouri 7-5, but won the 2020 season opener against St. Edward’s 3-1. The Chaps won their first eight games of the season opener until finally suffering a Day 1 loss to the University of Texas at El Paso in 1979. LCU’s longest losing streak came from 1997 to 2001 when they lost five games in a row.
LEADING THE PELOTON
For the 19and consecutive season, the Lubbock Christian baseball team will be led by Nathan Blackwood. A native of Lubbock and a graduate of the LCU himself (1995), Blackwood amassed an all-time record of 688-310 and is expected to hit several career milestones this season. Already the longest-serving coach in school history, he needs just eight wins to surpass College Baseball Hall of Famer Larry Hays as the winningest Chap coach of all. time. After reaching that mark, he will only need four more wins to reach the 700 mark. Blackwood has the 24and the most wins among active Division II head coaches, and everyone before him has at least 20 seasons as a head coach.
Blackwood has two full-time assistants on his team at Hector Limon and Jermaine Van Buren, who are both in their third season with the Chaps. Limon is a local Estacado graduate and played for the Chaps in the 1980s. He was inducted into the school’s Hall of Honor in 1998. After graduating he spent more than 20 years to teach and train. Van Buren was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the second round of the 1998 MLB Draft out of high school and pitched professionally for nine seasons. He had two major league stints, one with the Chicago Cubs and another with the Boston Red Sox.
GUESS WHO’S BACK
Well, that’s almost everyone. Only three players who saw significant playing time in 2021 are no longer in the squad. Seven players did better than .280 last season and six of them are returning, including ABCA Second Team All-American Luis Navarre and ABCA All-Region Second Team Pick Larry Leita. The Chap also fires six pitchers who have had at least 25 innings of work in 2021, including three players who have made at least seven starts (Armando Valle, Shandon Herrera and Tyler Hardwick) and a pair of relievers who made 18 appearances each (Cade Acrey and Peyton Hutson). Also returning to the mound for 2022 is Ty Stephensonwho made just five starts last year before getting injured, but was the 2021 staff ace with a 3.45 ERA.
Even though the Chaps have returned most of their 2021 roster, several new players have also been added who could have an impact this season. Infielder Carson Ogilvie comes to the Chaps after leading his Hill College team in average, on-base percentage and home runs last season, and receiver/first basemen Jarred Gibson transferred after hitting .407 with a .508 on-base percentage at Midland College in 2021. On the mound, LCU added Ethan Coombeswho had 82 strikeouts in 55.2 innings pitched and already has LSC experience from his time in Eastern NM They also transferred Tanner Berciera Canadian native who had a 0.59 ERA in 15.1 innings at USAO last season before getting injured.
In the 2022 LSC pre-season poll, which reflects the opinions of LSC head coaches, sports information directors and various media representatives from across the region, Lubbock Christian was chosen to finish sixth. The Chaps received votes but did not appear in the NCBWA’s South Central preseason regional poll, and they had no NCBWA All-America or All-Region preseason selections. Ogilvie was recognized before the start of the year as a Division II impact transfer to watch by Wayne Cavadi of the D-II report.
The Chaparrals play a total of 26 home games this season, starting with all four this weekend against Originally dedicated on April 29, 1978 as Chaparral Stadium, the complex was renamed Hays Field in 1999 to honor the LD, Pearl, Larry and Daren Hays families for their dedication and commitment to the ideals and values of Lubbock Christian University. Hays Field’s playing dimensions measure 340 feet along the lines, 380 feet to the power lanes, and 400 feet to the immediate center. LCU was 10-11 on home turf last year and the program is 1,117-337 in all-time home games.
Lubbock Christian played a 40-game regular season in 2021 as well as seven playoff games. As in 2022, most games in the 2021 season were in conference, where the Chaps went 17-19. They finished seventh in the league standings, but entered the conference playoff tournament as a six seed, as UT Tyler was still ineligible for the playoffs due to their level transition. D-II. The LCU heated up in the second half of the season, winning 16 of its last 23 games of the year. This included a first-round upset of Texas A&M-Kingsville in the LSC tournament, after which the Chaps qualified for the championship game before seeing their season end.
LOOK MORE BACK
In 1962, when Lubbock Christian College was still just a two-year school, there was a group of students who “just wanted to play ball.” Les Perrin heard their cry and agreed to be the sponsor and coach of the LCC’s first baseball team. He held that position for five seasons before the program disbanded, but that was just the start of campus baseball. Beginning in the 1970–71 school year, the LCC’s transition to four-year status and athletic director/coach Larry Hays revived the program with the 1971 season. Hays quickly led the program into the spotlight, surrendering at the NAIA World Series for the first time in 1977. The Chaps made four more World Series appearances under Hays, winning a national championship in 1983. Jimmy Shankle followed Hays as head coach and had a 1991 WS appearance. They went to the WS four more times under Blackwood, winning the title again in 2009 before moving to the NCAA in 2013. Since transitioning, they’ve won three conference titles and also reached the NCAA Regional three times. Lubbock Christian’s all-time record is 2,167-1,069 (.672).
SCOUT THE LIONS
- UAFS was chosen to finish ninth in the 2022 LSC pre-season poll
- Todd Holland is in his seventh season as UAFS head coach and has a 477-340 record as a Division II head coach.
- Lions’ best hitter from a season ago – Brooks Sunny – returns for 2022 season
- UAFS were one of the best pitching teams in the league in 2021, ranking fifth in LSC with a team ERA of 6.02
- The Lions struggled to hit last season, hitting .264 for the year, which was the fourth-worst average in the league.
THE SERIES WITH THE LIONS
Lubbock Christian and Arkansas-Fort Smith have met on the Diamond since 2014, and the Chaps lead the all-time series 16-7. Last season, they met four times. Once in the Houston Classic at Minute Maid Park, and three more times at Fort Smith, Ark. LCU won three of the four encounters.