When Columbus State's baseball team holds Senior Day later this season, it's going to be an awfully short ceremony.
The Cougars have just one senior on the team, infielder Jimmy Obermark, but Obermark said being the only senior on CSU's roster hasn't been as much of a burden as you might expect.
"I definitely feel like one of the leaders on the team," said Obermark, whose team opens its season Saturday with a doubleheader at West Alabama. "The new guys have stepped up and shown they want to be a part of this team, so it's been pretty easy to show them the way we do things here. We do have some returners and they've worked just as hard as I have and it's worked out well. We have so many new people that everybody's working hard for their spot. I think we're to the point now where everybody is playing and work
ing well together."
Obermark, who transferred to CSU from St. Charles (Mo.) Community College last year, spent most of the 2013 season at shortstop before sliding over to second base late in the regular season. The move seemed to suit him as he blossomed offensively and finished the year leading the team with nine homers. He also batted .333 in 216 at-bats, smacked 19 doubles, drove in 50 runs, scored 40 more runs and swiped 14 bases.
"We have 22 new players on the team, so having somebody back who played every game and had some success is big for this team," said Columbus State coach Greg Appleton, who is entering his 17th season. "Experience is something we lack. (Obermark's) offensive numbers last year were All-Conference caliber, but he struggled defensively. We moved him to second base late in the season so he could relax and produce and it worked out well. Playing shortstop was more of a mental grind for him and now he can concentrate on being a good offensive player for us."
Obermark, who hails from Sikeston, Mo., said the move to second base is one he welcomed and feels that it will make him a better overall player.
"(Moving to second base) just kind of fit for me," said Obermark, who was named to the Peach Belt Conference All-Tournament Team last season.
"It kind of took the pressure off me and I started hitting the ball better. Playing second is definitely different. Everything is sort of backwards from shortstop, but it's still pretty much the same. I like it. Last year, I was worried so much about how I was playing defensively at shortstop. Moving to second base took that pressure off and I was able to think about hitting more."
The Cougars' roster features 22 newcomers, which might be why CSU was voted sixth in the Peach Belt Conference's preseason coaches poll despite finishing 2013 with a 30-22 record, placing second in the PBC in the regular season and advancing to the semifinals of the Peach Belt Conference tournament. Obermark is one of four position player starters returning from that team and Appleton said his squad will have to limit their opponents' scoring chances if they want to be successful this season.
"We're going to have to pitch and play defense every day," said Appleton. "That has to be constant for us to win games this season. We have to be tough to get runs against. We lost four hitters and two of those were All-Americans. We're not going to have the same kind of offense as last year. To think we're going to go out and score seven runs per game is a bit lofty. We want to be a good pitching and defense team and score five or six runs per game and see if that's going to win. I think we're capable of doing that."
Obermark agreed that the Cougars aren't going to be lighting up the scoreboards nearly as much as they did in 2013, so they can't give their opponents extra outs.
"Defense and pitching are always a big key and (Appleton) has been stressing that in practice," said the 5-foot-10, 160-pound Obermark. "We've been working hard on being solid defensively. We're not going to go out and score a bunch of runs, but if our defense plays to its capabilities, we can hold teams to a few runs and come out on top."