After six months of preparation following a Sun Belt Championship Tournament upset loss in May, first-year head coach Steven Trout and the Texas State baseball team are set to suit up once again at home on Valentine’s Day weekend.
The team made history as they became Sun Belt regular-season champions last season for the first time since joining the conference but fell short of a World Series qualification after losing out of the Sun Belt Championship Tournament.
Trout, who was appointed the head coaching position this summer after six years of coaching with the program, said he is excited to carry the momentum from last season and keep pushing forward for his first year as head coach.
“Friday seemed like a long time away but I’m glad it’s here,” Trout said. “Coming off last year’s momentum, I’m hoping to continue it and take it even further. That’s the rules of our program now, to get better each year, so it’s a year to keep stepping forward, keep making new goals and keep reaching them.”
The Sun Belt Preseason poll picked Texas State to finish third in the West Division for this season, a snub that Trout and the team take as further motivation, according to Trout.
“To me, it was almost a gift that we were picked to finish third,” Trout said. “I think when our guys saw we were picked third on our side after winning last year, that gave us the chip on our shoulder to go prove people wrong especially because guys got snubbed on the All-Conference Team (too). Picking us third I think that gives our guys more motivation to show up every day and to prove everybody wrong, and I like when we play that way.”
The poll also picked redshirt-senior designated hitter Will Hollis to the Preseason All-Sun Belt team as well. Hollis hit .320 as an offensive giant for the program last season, ripping two home runs in the team’s upset victory over the University of Texas and knocking in 47 RBIs for the ‘Cats.
Trout said that Hollis will continue to lead offensively and as a teammate for the Bobcats.
“(Hollis) is going to be one of the guys on the team saying, ‘Hey, don’t let this guy beat you,'” Trout said. “Will’s one of those guys who can change up the score really fast and he can actually affect other guys in the lineup because they’re going to pitch around him to get to the next guy, but we’ve packed some good players around him. I look forward to the season he’s going to have in his final year.”
Other returners include senior infielder Jaxon Williams, junior infielder Dalton Shuffield and junior outfielder John Wuthrich, all of which will be invaluable to the team as leaders according to Trout.
“One of the biggest keys in sports is having guys who have been around for a long time,” Trout said. “They’ve played a lot of baseball for Texas State, so I’m excited to have these guys back along with the other guys as well. It’ll be a fun group to coach, they work hard so I’m excited to watch them finally get out there and play somebody else.”
Alongside the regular season championship-winning returners,Trout said that junior infielder Justin Thompson and junior outfielder Isaiah Ortega-Jones are some junior college transfers who could make waves this season.
“Those are (two) guys who have all played really hard in the fall and spring,” Trout said. “I’m excited to see what they can do when the lights come on.”
Although the season has yet to begin, Trout as well as new associate head coach and recruiting coordinator Josh Blakley have already signed 15 recruits for the 2021 season. Trout said the staff looks for hard workers on and off the field to create a successful program.
“I think you can see with the recruits they’ve all had success (and) they’ve all been winners,” Trout said. “And that’s always something that’s important moving forward. You’re looking for great people who will work really hard, it’s more than just what they do on the field, it’s also what they do off the field. That’s our goal for recruiting is to never have to have an offseason or rebuilding year. It’s just kind of to reload.”
The Bobcats will face Stony Brook as their first competitor in this weekend’s series. The Seawolves took home their sixth American East Tournament Championship in 2019 and qualified for the Baton Rouge Regional before falling to No.1 LSU and No.2 Arizona State.
As a head coach, winning is always on his mind, but Trout said he is most excited just to see his team get to play after months of preparation.
“It’s been a long six months, so it’s really just about getting to see them play somebody else and watch how they respond to hopefully a big-time crowd that we get on Friday nights,” Trout said. “It’s really about getting to see those guys get to have some fun and get out there. Until somebody else steps into the ring with you, you never know how good you are so it’s also kind of just trying to, figure out our rotation, figure out our lineup, is really what I’m looking into. I’m excited to see our guys get after it.”
Texas State baseball will face Stony Brook in a home series at 6 p.m. Friday (Valentine’s Day), 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday and 12 p.m. Sunday.