Inclement weather really put a dent in the schedule of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Golden Lions baseball team earlier in their season. The Golden Lions (5-7, 3-3) missed out on eight scheduled games due to bad weather.
The Golden Lions had a series that they were supposed to play in Lawrence, Kansas, against the Kansas Jayhawks that was canceled, and when they arrived back home they had to cancel their next few games as well.
UAPB Head Coach Carlos James knows that they can't get that valuable experience back, but they're not making any excuses and instead are pushing forward. Initially, James was going to experiment with a Black team and a Gold team in order to measure his roster, but with all the time off they've decided to shy away from that.
"We tried to do it, unfortunately, we lost too many games to cancellations," James said. "Including the trip to Kansas, we lost eight games. We got into conference pretty quick after that. It was tough, and we're really still trying to find our way. We're trying to get set on a starting nine. Everybody else has played about 21 games, and we've played 12."
"All of our cancellations were weather-related. It snowed in Kansas and it was rain the rest of the way that kept us from playing."
In their last series, the Golden Lions went 1-2 against the Grambling State Tigers, but they did beat them in the Andre Dawson Classic earlier this season. The Golden Lions won their only other Southwestern Athletic Conference series against the Southern Jaguars 2-1, but James knows all that time off hurt their growth, and they're just looking to get better every day from this point.
"We just have to play more and jell together," James said. "We lost the first one to Grambling 8-7, and lost the third 5-3 while leaving 10 guys on. We just have to get in rhythm and we'll be fine going forward."
The rotation is solidifying itself now that the Golden Lions are playing more, and James feels that they can go with three lefties on the mound.
Peyton Burks, Thomas Sanchez and Austin Softley are looking like the top three, and the rest will follow up from the bullpen. The Golden Lions took a hit in depth at the pitching position as Cody Widman is dealing with some arm tightness. Others like Antione Luster and Sergio Esparza have stepped in when needed.
"We're finding it a little bit," James said of a rotation. "Right now we have Burks starting on Friday, Lopez starts on Saturday, and Sanchez on Sunday. We'll like to go all lefties and put Softley in and add Tyrus to the pen. Losing Widman hurt us a little, and Luster has stepped in and done a good job with that. Sergio Esparza has been a back-end guy for us as well, and he closed the game against Grambling that we won in that series."
As far as individual performances through the first 12 outings, a few guys have shown leadership. Then there's freshman John Magnunson, who has produced early in his Golden Lions career.
"We're trying to find out who exactly are our leaders right now," James said. "We have a team that's blending together. It's a large group of newcomers, a solid group of returners, and a number of guys who were red-shirts.
"A few guys like S. Esparza, Ryan Mallison and Owen Young are stepping up lately and taking on that leadership role. John Magnunson has been playing shortstop lately, and he has been one of our leaders as well with Jarficur Parker out with injury."
UAPB gets the chance to host the Valparaiso University Crusaders (4-11) of the Missouri Valley Conference at the Torii Hunter Complex starting today through Saturday. Valpo comes in with an underachieving record, but James correlates that with their strength of schedule.
For his guys, James just wants them to start being consistent at doing the right things.
"I'm looking for some stability," James said. "We're getting close to forming a pretty good lineup and giving them chances to play against pretty good competition will better us. Valpo may be 4-11 but they really hit the ball well. They've played a tough schedule leading up to us. I'm just looking for our guys to come out and play solid baseball."
The first of the three-game series will be played today at 3 p.m., and a doubleheader is scheduled for Saturday starting at noon.