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Baseball Season Preview

The 2021 Royals opening day will be Friday, February 5th at Tyson Sports Complex in Springdale, AR for an Ecclesia College home double-header against Champion Christian College. Before the season got underway we were able to catch Head Coach Matt McCue and ask him some questions about the upcoming spring season.

We dove right into the questions and asked what McCue was most excited about, "I think the most exciting aspect of the coming season for us is the anticipation of getting to compete again. This group of young men is very fun to be around. I cannot wait to get to practice everyday to watch them work" Matt told us. After getting shut down mid spring last year, he said, "We are anxious to get in the same dugout again and be tested as one unit.

In regards to last year's lessons coach told us, "I think the biggest lesson we took from last year was the importance of a healthy perspective. That can cover a wide spectrum. Perspective of appreciating the chance to have a season is an obvious lesson I think all teams share. This team specifically has needed to refresh our perspective on competition, the process of growth, and the dangers of prioritizing results over all else."

"Wow, where do I start?" Matt said, when asked about what the biggest difference is now in your third season since you started as a head coach? "I took over a team that was already established and had success at a high level. I inherited 7 starters off the previous year's team. From year one to now I think this team has become more my own. I tried to be very careful about how quickly I made any changes within how we operated as a team when I took over. There was an environment of on field success and if I made too many drastic changes that did not work out I knew I could lose the locker room quickly. This roster is now mostly a roster myself or my staff recruited. I think we have a clearer picture about our vision, values, and culture as it relates to the type of environment we want to have here at EC to sustain success."

In reference to that newly recrutied roster he said "Top to bottom this might be the deepest team we have had" proudly. "Our coaching staff has spent hours evaluating different lineup scenarios and I think everyone on the roster has come up as a potential contributor in one way or another. We have been sure to communicate that many times to our guys, it has made practices quite competitive in a very healthy way" Matt said. He then went more in depth in terms of the roster by saying, "Elijah Saldana is our lone COVID senior that has been able to take advantage of his eligibility he got back. We do return some core players, Zack Espinosa, Austyn Hester, Austin Butler, and Tyler Roberts were staple members of our lineup when healthy last year. Tyrus Wells and Jesse Alexander are also back and will continue to play important roles. Cooper Gordon is back to anchor our pitching staff. We have added a few key transfer pieces we are excited about: Cam Berry from Dyersburg State is going to control our outfield. Cole Howard from Southwest Tennessee CC has demonstrated an ability to play just about anywhere the team needs him to play. Matthew Threatt and Max McCready are transfer pitchers from Division 2 programs that we are also looking forward to seeing work for us." He continued, "This freshman class is the most talented class we have brought in since I arrived at EC. Those words coming straight from most upperclassmen as well. Coleson Coffey, Luke Benfield, and AJ Simpson have shown themselves to play above their age at times and we look forward to seeing what they can accomplish this year. Every freshman on this team I see getting some quality opportunities on the field this spring." He ended his monologue about the roster by saying, "I could genuinely talk about everyone on our roster in a positive way. I have to stop myself now before I do. Perhaps my favorite thing about this group is how well they have handled their off the field business. We had the highest team GPA for a semester since I have been here this fall with a 3.25. We seem to get good reports generally speaking in their work conduct. They are all very receptive and understanding of what we are trying to establish here and the environment we want to create." We are very excited to watch this group perform together.

Lastly we like to ask about a team or program theme. Coach McCue said this, "Our team motto this year is 'We>Me.' Our scripture with it is Philippians. 2:3-4, 'Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain deceit. Rather, in humility value others before yourselves. Not looking to your own interest but each of you to the interests of others.' This covers our entire focus and involvement with this Ecclesia community. Paul wrote this verse to exhort the church at Philippi while he was in prison, and I think some good application can be given to us here. We want to work hard, serve each other, and display humility in what we do. Put the interests of others, the community, and the team above ourselves."

The Royals get to open their season with home double header against Champion Christian College before 14 consecutive road games. "February could be a tough month for us based solely on the travel schedule, but when you factor in the talent we face it becomes clear that we will need to pull together fast as a team" Coach McCue told us. In the road stretch they will be facing NAIA powers Central Baptist College, Ottawa U., Southwestern Christian, and the University of the Southwest. Following this road stretch the Royals finally get to host Randall U. at Tyson Sports Complex. The Royals will play a total of 28 home games this season including games against Mid-America Christian, Dallas Christian, Crowley's Ridge College, Southwestern Christian, Arlington Baptist, and College of the Ozarks for Senior Day. The remainder of the road games throughout the body of the season are against Crowley's Ridge College, College of the Ozarks, Kansas Christian College, Randall University, and NCAA D2 Southwest Baptist U..

Ecclesia's team is a very diverse roster of upper and lower classmen, and transfers. It will be a fun group to watch mesh under the leadership of Assitant/Pitching Coach JR Miller and Head Coach Matt McCue.

Follow along during the season @ecclesia_royals and be sure to come support during the home games hosted at Tyson Sports Complex, and check here for your postgame recaps.

Go Royals!

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