By Rylan Stiles
The Cameron Aggies get set for the 2023 baseball season after being tabbed 12th in the Lone Star Conference Preseason poll, looking to improve from their 14-34 campaign a season ago.
The Aggies hope the fourth year under skipper Kyle Williams will bring the most success as the squad returns some of their best hurlers from a year ago, with a flurry of offensive product returning to the fold for the Black-and-Gold.
CU will see their season get underway on Friday, Feb. 3, in Lubbock, Texas, against the Lubbock Christian Chaps and stretch through April 30 for their season finale at McCord Field against the St. Mary’s Rattlers.
Their season will include 12 Lone Star Conference four-game series and a home- and-home mid-week set with Southwestern Oklahoma State as the only non-conference foe on the docket this season.
The Aggies’ offense sees a lot of key returners, namely Beau Williams and Jayce Clem.
Williams, a slick-fielding middle infielder who can get on base, will set the table for the team boosting a .311 batting average, a .387 on-base percentage, .559 slugging percentage to the tune of a team-high nine home runs, a triple, and 15 doubles.
Jayce Clem provides the pop in the middle of the order, with four home runs a year ago, 13 doubles, and a .484 slugging percentage. Clem also hit for an over .300 average, something only he and Williams accomplished as returns from last year’s squad (minimum 100 at-bats).
“Jayce [Clem] and Beau [Williams] are both steady in the lineup and potentially top players in the conference.” CU coach Kyle Williams said, “They are both big-time leaders as well. They have helped bring our young guys along this fall.”
On the bump, the Aggies get a lot of surprise production back this season.
Their ace, Drew Henderson, who pitched against Royals star Bobby Witt Jr in High School, now looks to dominate the Lone Star conference after turning in the best ERA on the team and being the only member of the Aggies with a sub-five ERA a season ago (minimum ten innings pitched).
A season ago, Henderson was still returning from an injury; now fully healthy, Henderson is set to lead the Black-and-Gold.
Clayton McClenan and Marcos Feria each return to Williams’ squad this season and offer high upset for CU.
Feria flashed no-hit stuff against Eastern New Mexico last season, going four innings of two-hit baseball with just one walk in a seven-game tilt, and did the same against
Texas A&M International in his final appearance of 2022 turning in 3.2 innings of work with just one hit allowed, no walks and a jaw-dropping eight strikeouts.
McClenan made a great impression against the Greyhounds, too, with three innings of one-hit ball as a successor to one of his best outings that came the weekend before against West Texas A&M, where the Keller, Tex. native dealt out 4.2 innings allowing just three hits, one run and striking out three.
Former Aggie hurler and current Geronimo High School Head Baseball coach Michael Womack said he thinks the team is headed in the right direction. “… being around McClenan and Drew [Henderson] last year, they have the stuff to compete in this league,” he said.
Williams said this squad is built to win in a multitude of ways.
“We are built to score a lot of runs … We can run and hit for average while still having power throughout the lineup,” he said.
The Aggies’ changes did not stop on the field; they introduced a new pitching coach over the Fall.
Cooper Harris comes to CU following a season as an assistant coach at Vernon College, where he held the same title.
Harris was an All-Region selection at NOC-Enid and played for Lone Star Conference rivals West Texas A&M from 2019- 2021.
In 2020, the new pitching tutor held opposing batters to just a .143 average.
“Coach Harris is a really passionate young coach. He does a really good job with the pitchers, getting them ready and making them better. On top of that, he connects with all the players well because he sees things closer to their view,” Williams said.
Cameron will be tested early and often in the volatile Lone Star Conference, first up being the Chaps of Lubbock Christian, who were pegged for fourth in the conference and feature NCBWA preseason all-region infielder Eduardo Acosta and star hurler Marcos Escalera.
That series gets underway at 4 p.m., on Friday, Feb. 3, in Lubbock.
The Aggies make their home debut with the first pitch slated for 3 p.m., on Feb. 10, at McCord Field.