Baseball players shortlisted for pre-season awards | Sports
Two Cougar baseball players are expected to be top hitters this season, an honor for which they have been recognized with Ohio Valley Conference preseason awards.
Head coach Sean Lyons said Brady Bunten, a redshirt sophomore hitter from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Brett Johnson, a junior outfielder from Joliet, Illinois, are two talented players who have been instrumental in the success of Last year.
“We’ve been looking for them, you know, to be led producers and ignite the spark to get the offense started. I think these are guys that will also be relied on to just be leaders on offense,” said Lyons.
Lyons said Bunten and Johnson were chosen for the preseason awards because Bunten hit 13 homers last year, which ranks in the top 10 in SIUE history. Johnson had 10 home runs and 33 RBIs.
“I think coaches and such recognize that these are guys who are going to be the top level players in the conference and that’s why they win all the preseason conferences,” Lyons said.
According to Lyons, Bunten and Johnson are dynamic, quick and explosive players who can punch for power.
“A lot of that goes to developing their strength and weight through our athletic performance staff. Just the hard work they put in day in and day out to perform well in their craft. [They’re] just two really good guys who are great teammates,” Lyons said.
Johnson, a junior specializing in corporate marketing, said it was good to receive individual accolades because it means he had a good season last year, but it doesn’t mean much to him.
“Individual accolades, I mean, they will come, which is good, but the goal is really fair. [the] main goal of the team and that is to win the OVC Championship,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he thinks he has a great team for the upcoming season.
“It’s going to be a tough season. There are some really good teams in the conference, but I think everyone in the team has a similar goal, and that’s to win the OVC Championship, to win the tournament. I think we all believe we can do this,” Johnson said.
Johnson said last year that the team failed in some ways towards the end of the season.
“We fell apart, I guess you could say, the back stretch, and I think we really want to focus on a full year of baseball. Complete the schedule, every game we have 100% gold from start to the end,” Johnson said.
Bunten, a junior integrative studies student in a red shirt, said he felt good about winning the award, but there was still work to be done.
“In my opinion these are just words on a paper at this point so we just have to go out there and compete in the season and reunite with the team and get some wins under our belt,” Bunten said. .
Bunten said his goal for this season is to make it to the OVC tournament.
“Win it with my team, and that’s really what it comes down to, help my team any way you can,” Bunten said.
Bunten said he was looking to reduce his strikeout rate.
“Seeing the ball, looking for more off-speed and just pitch recognition. Recognition in general, that’s a big thing I’ve been working on,” Bunten said.
Bunten has stated as an individual that he hopes to get an OVC championship ring.
“I’d like to hit over 15 homers and average over 300 and try to cut my strikeouts in half,” Bunten said.