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The Drovers come into 2020 after an impressive 2019 season where they went 49-12 and would add another trip to NAIA World Series to its resume. In the World Series the Drovers would come within one game of the championship game going 3-2 in the tournament. The Drovers have high hopes again as they come into the season ranked #3 in the country and ranked #1 in the Sooner Athletic Conference preseason polls.
The Drovers 2019 pitching staff ranked 1st in the NAIA in ERA with a 2.47 team ERA and also were top ranked in strike outs with 554 on the season. In the 2020 season they will be returning the big 3 on the mound. Colton Williams, Matt Merrill and Jean Muntaner. In 2019, Williams went 16-0 with a 1.33 ERA in his 108.2 innings pitched. Merrill went 11-3 with a 2.50 ERA in his 86.1 innings pitched for the Drovers and Muntaner went 13-1 on the season with a 2.86 ERA in his 94.1 innings pitched. The Drovers will also have returning from the 2019 season, Ricardo Velez who really emerged on the stage during the World Series where he was dominant for the Drovers. In that World Series Velez threw 9 innings, with 113 strikouts and allowed just 1 run. Adam Moraga should be a good piece for the Drovers this season. Last season Moraga went 7-4 with a 3.95 ERA for Pima CC in Tucson, Arizona.
Starting Pitcher Matt Merrill said “All our guys are locked in and ready to get out there. I wouldn’t be surprised if we brought back the World Series trophy this year.“
The Drover offense will see some new faces this year and are coming off a 2019 season where they finished 4th in the NAIA in team batting average with .338 and 7th in Runs Batted In per Game with 8 runs per game. The Drovers will return the whole outfield from the 2019 season, in Ian Laureano, Luis Pelayo and Cristian Laboy. Laureano hit .364, with 45 RBI’s and 5 home runs including the walk-off to send the Drovers to the World Series. Pelayo will play a big piece in the USAO offense this season, as he hit .393 with 64 RBI’s and 8 home runs for the Drovers. Laboy hit 287 with 12 home runs and 46 RBI’s. The offense will be getting the addition of shortstop, Gus Wilson who played in 40 games for Galveston College where he hit .321 with 17 RBI’s on the season.
Starting outfielder Ian Laureano said “Just grateful that I can play another season under Coach Ross and excited for what the season is going to bring for us.“
The Drovers season is set to begin on the road Friday, January 24 when they travel to Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas. First pitch for this game is set for 1:00 PM CT. USAO will play its first home game on Saturday, February 1 against The University of Saint Mary.