NORFOLK, Va. - When the Old Dominion baseball team hosts in-state rival Richmond Tuesday in its home opener, the Monarchs will debut several new improvements at their on-campus Bud Metheny Complex.
The upgrades include turf home plate and baselines, a new scoreboard and changes to the 'Rally Alley' fan area. However, the Monarchs also hope to improve their postseason fortunes.
Last year, despite its most successful season since 2006, ODU did not receive an at-large bid to the NCAA postseason tournament. The Monarchs were denied an at large berth into the 64 team tournament despite its 37-and-21 overall record and a second-place finish in Conference USA during the regular season.
"When you're listed as one of the first four out - it's even more difficult to handle," explained ODU first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino. "It's listed as the background on my phone," he admitted. "Once Friday gets here, that's done - I'm changing my background because it's a new year."
The Monarchs were selected to finish fourth out of 12 teams in the 2018 Conference USA Preseason Coaches' poll - behind reigning regular season champ and 2017 NCAA Regional host Southern Miss, reigning tournament champ Rice and Florida Atlantic.
"One more win last year, anywhere, probably helps you get in - but this year's team can't do anything about last year's schedule," noted ODU head baseball coach Chris Finwood. "So we have to find our own way. It's a different team. It's a very balanced team offensively."
"We have high hopes of building off that [near-miss] from last year," added third baseman Culver Lamb, a Tallwood High School alumnus. "We're not letting that disappointment effect this team this year. "It's kept us moving forward."
The Monarchs open their season Friday in Kissimmee, Florida vs. Saint Louis University. ODU plays Oakland University and the University of Iowa Saturday and Sunday before returning for Norfolk for Tuesday's home opener vs. Richmond.