NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Belmont baseball team begins the 2020 campaign with a three-game series against Kansas starting on Friday at 4 p.m. at Rose Park.
Belmont returns seven starters from the 2019 season and 23 letterwinners overall, including seven of the top 10 leaders in batting average.
"I'm excited about this team and their team chemistry," head coach Dave Jarvis said. "I feel like we've got the potential to have really good team chemistry and good leadership in our two upper classes. Those guys have worked hard to make sure that our younger guys are a part of the team and feel that they're involved and a part of what is going to be going on. We've got some really good young players in that freshman and sophomore class, but I commend our juniors and seniors for creating good team chemistry and creating a level of accountability in that aspect as well."
For the 19th straight season, Belmont will play its opening game on its home turf. The Bruins have not traveled outside of Nashville for an opening day game since 1989, looking for its third opening series win in the last five years.
According to Jarvis, opening weekend presents other challenges besides the opposition.
"Opening day is always a challenge because you have a lot of young kids where this may be their first college experience or others where it's their first experience starting on opening day," Jarvis said. "It brings some of those challenges where kids have to learn to control their emotions and control their approach to things and approach to the game. It's a 56-game slate. It's a full season. It's a long season. We try to take the approach that you don't ever want to get too high or too low. You try to stay in control of your emotions."
Belmont's pitching staff gained preseason recognition both with the conference and nationally, with junior relief pitcher Kyle Brennan being picked as the Projected OVC Pitcher of the Year by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper along with being named to the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Preseason Watch List. Sophomore pitcher Joshua South was named the OVC Preseason Pitcher of the Year by the conference, becoming the third Belmont pitcher to earn the honor.
While the team is proud of the recognition, the Bruins understand that it is the performance in the season that matters.
"Preseason honors are nice, but you don't put too much stock into it," Jarvis said. "Kyle Brennan and Joshua South are both really good pitchers whether people recognize that or don't recognize that. That doesn't change their abilities. At the end of the day, postseason recognition is based on your body of your work. Preseason recognition is based on projection and what we think might happen. It's a good honor, but we've got the new season in front of us. What happens on the field and in between the foul lines is what is going to be the determining factor."
Coming off a 32-win season and a fifth place finish in the Big 12 conference, Kansas looks to contend for a conference title and earn its way into the NCAA Tournament. The Jayhawks are looking for its second opening series win on the road in the last three years, tying the series with South Carolina Upstate 2-2 last season. Kansas compiled a total of 38 home runs and 299 RBIs last season, returning three of its top four hitters from 2019.
Benjamin Sems is the Jayhawks' key slugger, hitting .305 with 39 RBIs to earn Second Team All-Big 12 honors. Skyler Messinger adds power to the plate, leading the Jayhawks with 16 doubles in 2019. On the pitcher's mound, Kansas is led by 2019 All-Big 12 Honorable Mention Ryan Cyr. Cyr collected 61 strikeouts in 97.1 innings of work, with Eli Davis collecting a 5-3 record and coming up with the third-most strikeouts on the team with 51.