“Individuals play the game but teams win championships.”
Every day there’s a quote just like this posted on the dugout wall at UT Dallas, courtesy of head coach Shane Shewmake. A two-time American Southwest Conference East Coach of the Year, Shewmake is 401-249 in 13 seasons, which is about how long the baseball program has been in existence. He was hired in April of that year and had to put together a team by August.
“Number one, we didn’t have a field to begin with,” said Shewmake. “It was an old intramural field so getting the field ready was number one on the list. I spent a lot of time watching high school and junior college games. When you are starting something new, players are a little hesitant but we were able to find the right group that got this thing rolling in the right direction.”
Fast forward to today, UT Dallas is in the midst of one of its best seasons in program history. The Comets are ranked No. 11 in the NCAA Division III poll with a 18-4 record.
“It’s been an interesting journey,” added Shewmake.
UT Dallas lost 14 seniors from last year’s team that finished with a 24-20 record but was able to reload this season. Among the new faces in the dugout is junior first baseman Barry Casey. The Southlake native transferred from Northeast Texas Community College in Mount Pleasant and leads the team with a .433 batting average with five home runs and is tied for the team lead with 34 RBI. The move to the Division III school in Richardson has been a perfect fit for Casey, both on the field and in the classroom.
“It’s been a blast,” said Casey. “I’m really excited to get my degree but also play baseball here. It’s been a blessing.”
Another junior college transfer, Conner Scruggs, is also making an impression during his first year at UT Dallas. The third baseman from Garland Naaman Forest and Eastfield Junior College in Mesquite has a .395 batting average with 32 hits and 22 RBI.
“It’s been a great season,” said Scruggs. “We’ve been hitting the ball and pitching well. We’ve just been playing our game.”
One of the few seniors on this year’s team is centerfielder Josh Covey, who has spent the entire duration of his college career at UT Dallas. Covey is putting up some impressive numbers this season for the Comets at the leadoff spot with a .411 batting average and three home runs. A native of Tomball, Texas, Covey has seen how the program has grown.
“It’s come a long way since my freshman year,” said Covey. “Obviously, the coaches are really good at recruiting but the recruiting classes are getting better and better each year. It’s great to see the program growing and it’s great to see guys want to come here and play so it’s wonderful.”
UT Dallas has the weekend off but continue to stay locked into the game mentality with afternoon intrasquad scrimmages. The Comets are back on the field in Richardson for a weekend series against McMurry University starting on March 31. UT Dallas is 8-0 this season at home.
All the pieces have fallen into place for UT Dallas this season as they look to win their first ASG Conference title in school history. It would be another successful milestone for a young program that continues to grow and develop into becoming one of the premier Division III college baseball teams in the nation.