With his team undefeated in conference play in his senior year, the only concern for Howard Payne University senior outfielder Cliff Lunceford is his team has its confidence burst and are unable to recover.
Entering his fourth and final season with the Yellow Jackets, Lunceford said he has seen just about everything except for what he has seen this season in his unusually hot squad.
“We’re off to a good start and it feels really good. We haven’t had a team this good in a while, at least since I’ve been here,” Lunceford said. “We started off really hot in conference and I’m excited to see how the rest of the season turns out.”
The Yellow Jackets recently swept Louisiana College and bested fellow American Southwest Conference foe Mary Hardin-Baylor last weekend in the same fashion. Lunceford is a significant contributor to HPU’s success with him circling the top of nearly all offensive statistical categories. He currently has a .302 batting average over 53 at bats with 13 hits and seven RBIs.
“We’re 6-0 in conference right now and we’re playing really well on all levels,” Lunceford said. “At the beginning, when we played Hawaii (Pacific University), they were obviously a big school and that got us ready for conference. We saw good pitching and hitting and it helped us do well against these other teams.”
Lunceford said the Yellow Jackets’ 9-7 overall record may be a bit misleading with a bulk of those losses coming to Hawaii Pacific in February. They are currently riding a seven-game win streak and Lunceford believes the only potential barrier he sees is the team itself. He hopes his team can remain humble during their early success and keep a level head when the losses come. No matter how talented a team, the losses will come and how his team responds to those losses will determine how far they will go the remainder of the season.
“Usually the teams that make it to the end start off average. They get super hot at the end,” Lunceford said. “We want to make sure we stay hot. A lot of teams get hot at the beginning, then it gets to their heads. They don’t go as hard in practice. They might barely get into the tournament, but they’re not as hot at the end of the season and they will eventually lose. It’s vital we stay hot, keep working in practice and have a complete season and not tank it in the end.”