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Cougars look for championship title

An optimistic Mount Vernon Nazarene University baseball team is once again gunning toward a conference championship this spring.

The Cougars are young, recruiting 11 freshmen for the 2016-17 campaign and returning 12 sophomores, one junior and four seniors.

“We have a good amount of experience coming back, but we're also going to be needing some freshmen to step up and compete for us,” said senior outfielder Corey Gould. “I have a lot of confidence that the young guys will be able to do that for us.”

This season, sophomore Yanni Patten will take first base for the Cougars. Patten led the Crossroads League in hitting as a freshman, batting .406 with 39 RBI. He earned First Team All-League honors as a freshman.

At second base is senior Jamie Montero, a middle-of-the-order batter who hit .366 with 34 runs and 16 RBI in his 38 games last season.

Sophomore Brandt Miller will move from his position of second base to shortstop for the 2017 season.

At third base, sophomore Aaron Saal will return for his second season. Saal, known for his great defense, went .312 with 34 hits in 34 games last year and is expected to be an offensive threat for the Cougars again this spring.

In the outfield, Gould poses a threat to the opposing teams in his senior year. Batting .351 with 20 RBI, and drawing 31 walks in 2016, he will continue to play left field for the Cougars.

Sophomores Christian Bacon and Axel Carreras, freshman Nick Moser and junior Jesse Staudt also will be instrumental in the outfield.

The pitching rotation for the Cougars will be seniors Bryce Arledge and Jacob Chrysler, sophomores Trenton Wood and Ashton Myers and freshmen Clint Connor.

The young team looks forward to the spring season anticipating a tournament spot.

"We remain optimistic and feel that we will put some pieces together that will allow us to be playing for something at the end of the season,” said Coach Keith Veale.

As a team, the Cougars hope to bring home the championship title this year.

“To do this, we need to come to practice ready to get better every day, and execute during games one pitch at a time,” Chrysler said.

According to Gould, Veale expects each player to represent Cougars baseball on and off the field regardless of a win or loss.

“Coach Veale expects us to never give less than our best effort,” said Chrysler. “He is not the type of coach that yells and screams when things go wrong. He treats us like the men we are trying to become.”

The team currently sits at 18-9 with a 4-1 record in the Crossroads League.

"We are looking forward to the challenges that are coming in the next couple of months," said Veale. "It has been a unique fall and preseason so far with playing games in the fall and having the opportunity to get outside in February."

The team will take the field today at 2 p.m. against Marian University.

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