CLAREMORE — In 2012, the Rogers State University Hillcats reached the NAIA World Series for the first time in program history while becoming the first RSU athletics team to compete in the championship game.
With a 49-16 record and a No. 2 finish in the postseason poll, the Diamond Cats registered their best finish to date. Although the Hillcats made a magical run through the World Series in 2012, the 24 returners and 10 newcomers would like a second chance at the championship game in 2013.
The Diamond Cats return six starting position players and four starting pitchers from last year’s club, including World Series Gold Glove winner Eric Baker along with standout pitchers Shawn Spainhoward and Brandon Bargas.
Coach Bradley has compiled a talented group of newcomers to complement the veterans and believes the team has shown it is capable of big things in 2013.
“We’ve got a quality club coming back,” Bradley said. “The difference will be how many close games we can win. Looking back on last season, we lost several close games in extra innings that decided the series. Our kids had a lot of resilience and won several close games down the stretch to put us in the World Series. It’s going to come down to getting that big hit or that big out. “
With the graduation of everyday catcher Lance Rymel, behind the dish might be the place where RSU has the most question marks.
“The catcher position is the biggest hole we have to fill on our roster this season,” Bradley said. “I look for us to go with a two-catcher system which is what we have done in the past; last year was an exception with Lance Rymel being the quarterback of our club. We have two kids coming back who saw limited time. (Emmanuel) De La Cruz had more at-bats than (McKenzie) Matthews but I think they will split time early.”