Bulldogs & Beyond: Baseball team is ready for new season
Updated: May 10, 2020
By Greydon Buhlig
The SWOSU baseball team is ready for another great season. In 2019 the Dawgs finished in the No. 4 spot in the Great American Conference and battled for a chance to play in the conference championship game in Enid last spring.
“We ended there in Enid, it seems like when we get there with those top six teams, we have never fared very well in Enid,” head coach Zack Saunders said. “I think we just have to continue to try at it, continue to knock on the door and have a group to go win it.”
Last season, the team was in the seventh spot when they really seemed to pick it up. Saunders reflected on how the team battled through injuries and moved up three spots in the conference to claim fourth heading into the postseason.
While Division II baseball can feature junior-college heavy rosters, SWOSU has a few key returners back from last season. Returning for the Bulldogs this season is senior centerfielder Alex Bedard, senior infielder Kannon McCune and senior outfielder Chris Cloud. On the pitching side of things the Bulldogs return senior Carter Hogan, and juniors Haden Branch, Chase Hamilton and Dakota Jones.
“We are going to lean pretty heavily on those guys here out of the gate,” Saunders said. “They have been through it before and they know what to expect.”
Saunders was also excited about the challenge of bringing in the new, younger guys as well. He said that figuring out the best lineups is key. It is even more key to get that in before the team gets started. Another important aspect that Saunders discussed was this team’s identity. He said it is a struggle, but it is up to the players to choose.
“Until they decide who they are going to be as a group, it is an uphill battle,” Saunders said. “It was really good to watch our group; you got to see our growing pains. They are really close; they like to cut up and have fun, but they are close. For me, it’s a good sign for our group.”
Saunders has been head coach here for eight seasons and he’s guided SWOSU to seven winning seasons as the only coach to lead the Bulldogs in the Great American Conference. His team won the 2016 Conference Championship and Saunders believes that his guys have another great chance to chase another one.
One of the great things about Coach Saunders is how he discussed the school as a whole, not just baseball. He talked about how all sports are in great positions to take that leap and continue to keep SWOSU at the national level, and keep the Bulldogs relevant.
Now onto the season, which began this Jan. 31 in Edmond at the First Pitch Classic hosted by Central Oklahoma. The Bulldogs took on Pittsburg State to start the year off on Friday before also playing Emporia State and Missouri Southern.
One player Saunders is excited for, and spoke very highly of, is senior Alex Bedard, a second team All-GAC selection as a junior. Saunders described him as a lightning bolt, a guy who really embodies SWOSU.
“Alex is very unapologetic in his play,” Saunders said. “He’s tough, gritty and everything he has, he’s worked for. He has that blue-collar work ethic and is very unapologetic in the way he plays. He isn’t worried about anything else but himself and his team.”
Saunders is ready, and he knows he has to have his players ready to compete right out of the gate.
“Pitt State is a group that played in a regional semifinal last year,” he said. “The fun part of it is that it’s a baseball game. They will put their stuff on just like we do, and it’ll be just about who plays better that day.”
The first weekend of season will see the Bulldogs compete at the Edmond First Pitch Classic and they’ll play their first seven games of the season away from home. SWOSU baseball fans get their first chance to see the Bulldogs in action at home on Feb. 21-22 in a three-game conference series against Southeastern Oklahoma State.