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Building Chemistry: The Story of Unity and Growth in Lipscomb’s Baseball Squad

This year’s Lipscomb Baseball team is a little bigger than last year’s – numbering forty athletes strong. But they’re also facing a lot of interesting dynamics and changes coming. With thirty of the players at Junior level or above, most would expect a split among the players. But that’s not the case with Lipscomb’s team.

Senior Outfielder Alex Vergara was the first to quickly put any suspicions to rest. Vergara has been on the Lipscomb team for the past two years, and has been playing college baseball for the past five.

“This is the best the chemistry has ever felt,” Vergara said. “A lot of times I think guys say that [their] team is the closest [in] junior college… just because everyone’s closer in age. But this fall was really good because a lot of us would hang out, we’d all go over to Trace’s house and just sit around the fire and watch college football, so we got to bond really well there. And I think it’s great, all the guys on the team are really nice, really cool.” He laughed, thinking about some of the things the team has been up to while getting to know one another the past few months. “[One night] I think probably 75 percent of the team just went up to the caf to see how much we could eat. I’ve never done that before, but it was a lot of fun.”

Vergara wasn’t the only one to share this opinion. Freshmen Infielder Caleb Scott, despite being much newer to the team, and to college baseball as a whole, also shared the sentiment.

“There’s a lot more chemistry here [than in high school] too. People care more,” Scott said. “As far as teams I’ve been on, this is the best team chemistry I’ve ever been introduced to… The guys kind of welcomed me in and everybody else in. So it’s just kind of like a big family that like, just adopted [everyone] pretty quick… There isn’t a guy on the team that doesn’t like somebody else… They may not be best friends, but they’re still friends and like, hang out outside. There’s always something to do with the team. It’s really nice.”

Members of the team laugh together before their opening game, including Vergara (21) and Scott (8), top left. Photo taken by Micah Barkley.

Senior Right-handed Pitcher Bryce Houghton spoke honestly about both the build of the team, and its’ chemistry. “We’ve definitely got the pieces to be a great team,” he said. “The chemistry is definitely there. We haven’t played up to our complete potential yet, but we’re gonna get there and we’re gonna be a really good team.” Though the team was learning to play together, he said they were picking up steam with each game, and their chemistry kept getting better. “[We’ve] got a really close knit group. We did last year, too, but I just feel like everybody on this team gets along and just wants the best for one another… We’re going to keep on grinding and keep coming together. And I think the best way to respond is to continue to grow close together, build that bond.”

Any sport on campus requires a lot of time commitment from its’ athletes, and baseball is no exception. If the players aren’t on the field, they could be in the gym, the batting cages, or the bullpens. Even with classes, Houghton said he spends at least six hours a day on the field, if not more.

But even when you’re spending that much time on the field or other places working on your sport and your skills, there’s still a lot of other things to keep up with. The players have to find the balance between baseball, school, family, relationships and, most importantly, God.

“God’s always first,” said Scott. “That’s always a priority. School is just about time management, so maybe doing homework in class while taking notes, [working] before practice, late nights after practice. School’s always big. Family, just, they’re always there… you always gotta make at least 15 minutes out of your day, I feel like, to talk to them.”

The Lipscomb baseball team prays before a game. Photo taken by Micah Barkley.

“I think [finding] that [balance is] the hardest thing to do,” Vergara said. “I mean, college [is] already busy enough when you’re just a student and you’re not playing any sports.” Vergara delved a little into the day-to-day schedule that a lot of the baseball players faced, running through a day. “Some guys have 7:30 lifts, and then they’ve got to go straight to class. And then you got to go to chapel and then you got to find time to eat. Then you got to go to, you know, conditioning or whatever you have then. Then you have early hitting, then you have practice. It’s… a lot.”

“In high school, I fell into the trap of [putting] baseball first,” Houghton said. “Not above my family, maybe, but it was above God. Then I got hurt my junior year of high school and had to have surgery and that made me realize that my identity was being found in baseball and that’s not where it needs to be found. And so I had to switch my mindset and realize that getting to play this game is a gift. It’s an opportunity to worship the Lord every time I go out there. And so, I think, once I found my identity back in Christ and put Him first, then everything else kind of like fell into line. But the time balance is tough.”

“Last year for probably the first three or four weeks when I got here it was just like the biggest grind I’ve ever been on,” Vergara remarked. “I wasn’t used to having to balance school and having to cook my own food and having to do all that stuff. And then having a girlfriend on top of that, it’s hard, man. But you fall in love with it.”

Vergara talks to a teammate before a game. Photo taken by Micah Barkley.

“As soon as I get off the field, I’m trying to call my family, call my girlfriend, do some homework, whatever that may be,” Houghton said. “I’m trying to just make sure I have time for all of them. But I think first and foremost, I try and get in my quiet time every day because if I don’t get homework done, that’s fine. But I got to get God in.” 

Houghton prays at the outfield wall before the start of a game. Photo taken by Micah Barkley.

“As far as relationships and friendships, they come and they go,” Scott added. “Cherish them while they’re there, and then when they leave, or if they do happen to leave, you know, just stay focused on what’s always there, which is God, and hopefully baseball.” 

Scott walks past with Right-handed Pitcher Chandler Giles. Photo taken by Micah Barkley.

“You got to get into a routine,” Vergara advised. “Otherwise things are gonna speed up on you. You’re gonna miss classes. You’re gonna miss workouts. So a routine is extremely important.”

“[I’m most looking forward to] just the time with my teammates outside of baseball,” Houghton smiled. “Like I love baseball, I love being on the field, but I think what you can’t get back is that time that you spend together.”

“We’re flashing signs of what we can do. And here soon, it’s all going to come together,” Houghton added.

“Let’s go win some ball games!” Scott said with a smile as a way of ending the interview.