BY JOHN DUBOIS
The Danville Area Community College Jaguars baseball team is off to its best start in 10 years, but coach Tim Bunton was more impressed with the way the Jaguars have played than he was with his team winning seven of its first eight games.
“You never know how you’re going to play on these early season trips, and every team at Myrtle Beach was in the same boat that we were,” Bunton said. “We of course went there to win, but what was really important this early in the season was how we played. We pitched it well, we hit it well, and we caught it well. Our success on the trip is a testament to our kids and how they have gone about getting ready in practice.”
The Jaguars have outscored their first eight opponents by a combined score of 60-12. Former Bismarck-Henning standout Tyler McKenzie and freshman Aaron Kuper are both off to fast starts at the plate.
“The thing I am most proud of about Tyler is his approach to the game,” Bunton said. “He never wavered in his dedication to the game last year and has always been a great teammate. Tyler can flat out hit and he has changed up his approach at the plate and has been going to the opposite field more. He has a great attitude and the guys have a lot of respect for him.”
McKenzie gave the credit to his coaches.
“Coach Bunton and Coach Drew (Locascio) have been pushing all of his hitters this off-season,” McKenzie said. “I think as a team we have bought into the system and it has worked very well for us.”
Kuper is a right handed hitting catcher from Highland.
“Aaron hit over .500 on the trip,” Bunton said. “We have been able to take some swings against our own pitchers and that has helped us. The key to hitting in the cage is not so much the overall results, but rather to get your timing down. We have been making a lot of contact early and haven’t been striking out much.”
The DACC pitching staff is off to a dominating start led by freshman right handed starters David Anderson from Jonesboro, Ind., and Zach Anderson from Greenwood, Ind.
“David was our game one starter and gave up three hits and then came back in his second start and gave up three hits again,” Bunton said. “Zach has more velocity, but the key for both guys is that they pound the strike zone. They get up strike one almost immediately and let their defense work behind them. As a staff we have thrown 56 innings and only allowed 12 walks. We saw a lot of positives from our staff on the trip.”
Former Schlarman Academy Hilltopper Alec Neal is off to a solid start.
“The trip was a good test for Alec and he can compete well at this level,” Bunton said. “He hit the weight room over the summer and has bought into our system. He is pitching with confidence.”
With the exception of the 2011 season, Bunton has coached DACC every season since the baseball program was restarted in 1996. The Jaguars are coming off a 36-19 year in 2012.
“We aren’t as fast as we were last year, but our team speed is pretty good this year,” Bunton said. “All the games in Myrtle Beach were on turf which makes it hard to get a really good read on your defense, but we will be solid defensively.
“Top to bottom our league is pretty solid this year. You always have Heartland and Parkland to deal with, and ICC has really improved along with Lincoln and John Wood. We are ready to compete. We will have to play fundamental baseball. Pitch it, catch it, and throw to the right base.”
The Jaguars will stay on the road this weekend, facing Vincennes University today and playing Spoon River College on Friday and Saturday.