(CLEVELAND)– The Truett McConnell University baseball team is set to begin its 2020 season today ( Tuesday ) at Toccoa Falls College. The Bears are coming off one of the most successful seasons in program history. TMU posted an overall record of 30-19 and claimed national rankings as high as No. 18 in the NAIA national top 25 polls.
“We hope to compete well throughout the year game in and game out,” Head Coach Mike Croley said. “We graduated some impact players from last year and we hope the learning curve for this year’s team is short. We are looking forward to continually developing the players God has brought to the program.”
The Bears will be without two Appalachian Athletic Conference second-team members, Austin Bishop and Gregory Elder Jr. Bishop, who is now an assistant coach for this year’s team, helped lead TMU’s offense with an overall batting average of .390 with 76 hits, 12 doubles, one triple, 30 RBI’s, 46 runs scored and two home runs. Elder, TMU’s record-holder for most career strikeouts (365), went 6-2 from the mound and recorded a total of 105 strikeouts.
Nonetheless, TMU will return preseason All-American Josh Johnston. Johnston started and played in all 49 games last season for the Bears and led the offense with an overall batting average of .422, which ranked second in the AAC. The senior shortstop, also a first team All-AAC select, combined for a total of 81 hits, 10 doubles, four triples, 46 RBI’s, 59 runs scored and nine home runs. Johnston also ranks second in the program’s most stolen bases in a career category (41).
Juniors Craig Barton and Cason Brown are two key returners for the Bears’ pitching staff. Barton and Cason led the Bears last season from the mound with the most wins (7). In fact, Barton led TMU in knocking off the No. 2-seed of the AAC tournament last season, Bryan College, after pitching a complete game of 12 strikeouts.
The Bears are set to host Milligan College on Friday, Jan. 31, for their home opener. TMU’s season opener at Toccoa Falls College on Tuesday, Jan. 28, will begin at 2:00 p.m.