LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – UALR head baseball coach Scott Norwood is getting a first glimpse at his new team this week, as the Trojans began fall practice at Gary Hogan Field on Monday. Norwood, in his first season at UALR after leading Ouachita Baptist to a runner-up finish at the NCAA Division II College World Series, has 12 returning lettermen and 23 newcomers on his roster this year.
“We’ve got a bunch of new guys, so we’re just trying to get to know each other and help the players learn a new system,” said Norwood. “The intensity so far has been awesome though, and a lot of the kids reported in really good shape. These guys realize we have an opportunity to get better, and they want to be the ones to do that.”
Among UALR’s 12 returning lettermen are six position starters from a year ago, including senior Eric Hanlon and Second Team All-Sun Belt Conference selection Matt Apfel. Hanlon batted .324 with 12 doubles and 16 stolen bases in his first year at UALR, while Apfel led the Trojans with a .387 batting average, 40 runs scored and a .443 on-base percentage.
UALR returns three of its five starters from the infield in first baseman Greg McCarthy, shortstop Zach Rowles and third baseman Kody Kroll. The trio started a combined 127 games last season, with McCarthy sporting a team-best .998 fielding percentage. Junior Brad Swiderski is the final starter back from a year ago. The North Little Rock-native made 40 starts last season between catcher, outfield and designated hitter.
“We’re tinkering with positions to see what’s best for our team and find roles we can put our kids in to succeed,” added Norwood. “We want to establish a lineup on the field that we think we can win with every day, and the fall is a great evaluation tool for that. It gives us a great understanding of what we have going into the spring.”
The Trojans have 40 dates to work with during the fall practice session, which will culminate with an intrasquad series at the end of October.