Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Wolf Pack set their sights on conference championship

With the regular season winding down, the Loyola baseball team is striving to make a return to the Southern States Athletic Conference Championship tournament for a second consecutive year.

Last year, Doug Faust, head coach, led the Wolf Pack to its first ever conference championship appearance with some help from one of the program’s most decorated players, Luis Anguizola who is currently pursuing a professional baseball career in the minor leagues.

Alex Lorenzo, business senior, has stepped up as the team’s leader much like Anguizola did when he donned a Loyola uniform.

“Alex (Lorenzo) has had a great season to this point. He has become a real good hitter as well, one of the best in our league,” Faust said as he praised the Miami native.

The senior outfielder currently leads the Wolf Pack in nearly every batting category and was recently named the Southern States Athletic Conference’s Baseball Player of the Week after leading Loyola to three key conference victories over Brewton-Parker a week ago.

Faust said the team’s inability to make plays in close games is a current weakness.

Thus far, the Wolf Pack has been involved in many close games, losing five games by just one single run.

“We need to continue to get better at ‘game winning’ situations. That is, get the timely hit, make the big pitch and make the big play on defense,” Faust said.

Loyola currently has a 21-26 overall record and a 7-11 record against conference opponents. And with just seven regular season games remaining on the schedule and two crucial triple headers against conference opponents — Bethel and Middle Georgia State — the team knows that they must play at a high level from here on out to ensure a berth in the postseason tournament.

“These next two series will be against conference opponents so this is the push. This is the time where we make a playoff push and I feel like we are in a good spot,” Lorenzo said.

While the team has struggled to consistently compete with the conference’s top-tier teams such as William Carey and Faulkner, the Wolf Pack displayed flashes of brilliance that compel members of the team like Joseph Kuchler, marketing junior and starting pitcher, to believe that they can go toe-to-toe with the best that the conference has to offer.

This was made apparent on March 31, when Loyola stunned the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletic’s top-ranked Faulkner Eagles in a 5-3 upset victory.

“That was a huge boost. It was the greatest feeling. I’ll never forget it. That kind of win can boost the whole morale of the team and gets everyone thinking that we can beat these guys and we can hang in this conference,” Kuchler said.

After the team’s three game sweep of Brewton-Parker a week ago, the Wolf Pack bolstered its conference record enough to claim the seventh spot in the conference standings.

“We clinched a spot in the conference tournament this past weekend. Now we have a chance to improve our seeding with the next two series,” Faust said. “We play two really good teams in Bethel and Middle Georgia.”

With the team seemingly hitting its stride at the most important part of the season, many Loyola players believe that the Wolf Pack is due for a return to the conference tournament.

“Even though we lost Luis (Anguizola) last year — a once in a generation kind of player for a college team — I really do feel that we have a better team than we did last year,” Lorenzo said. “I really believe that we’re going to make a strong push and that we’ll be able to make some noise in the conference tournament.”

The Wolf Pack didn’t fare well in the conference tournament a year ago after losing to Faulkner in their first game. The Wolf Pack’s 12-7 loss to William Carey the following day sent them home for good, ending their season with a 22-33 record.

The Wolf Pack is hoping for a different outcome this time around.

“These younger guys don’t really understand what making the conference tournament really means yet. For us, it was a big deal,” Lorenzo said. “We want to make this an expectation almost. We want to get there and expect to beat some teams.”

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Ryan Micklin, Staff Writer

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