A vision of a bright future is ahead as the ETSU baseball team kicks off their season this weekend at home at Thomas Stadium against Central Michigan.

ETSU’s season came to an end last year in a 12-11 loss in the Southern Conference tournament to Samford. They ended the season with an overall record of 27-30 and 13-11 in the conference.

“The biggest thing with us is we were a very good offensive team last year,” said Assistant Coach Chris Gordon. “We have to pitch it better and play better defense. We’re going to return an offense as good as anyone in our league and as good as anyone in the country. We have to pitch a lot better. And if we can pitch better and play better defense, we have a chance to win the Southern Conference and advance into NCAA regional play.”

Despite coming short of winning the conference championship, the team earned rewards and honors at the end of last season. The team earned the SoCon Commissioner’s Cup which is given to the conference’s best all-around men’s program. The team had many players earn individual honors as well, including All-American honors, All SoCon Honors, 2016 MLB Draft and a first place in the 2016 TD Ameritrade Home Run Derby.

The Bucs bring a lot of experience to the 2017 season. Out of the five Buccaneers who were taken in the 2016 MLB Draft, three are returning for the Bucs. Hagen Owenby (Knoxville, Tenn.), Aaron Maher (Brentwood, Tenn.) and Chris Cook (Kingsport, Tenn.) all returned this season alongside 22 other returning players.

You can’t build a future without paving the way for others. Head Coach Tony signed 11 new players to this year’s team, in different positions and from different backgrounds. Five are community college transfers, including three pitchers, one infielder and one outfielder. The rest of the new players are freshman, who will begin their college careers come Friday.

“We’ve got some young guys that are going to make an impact,” Gordon said. “We felt like our recruiting class was really good addressing needs that we have. Luckily, we have a pretty veteran team so we’re going to be able to protect those guys and use them the way we need to and not really ask a ton out of them right now. But we need them to grow up and be good for the future.”

The Bucs will hit the field at 3 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday, and 1 p.m. on Sunday at Thomas Stadium in Johnson City.