Bluffton hoping for move into elite of HCAC in 2002
By Todd Pickthorn, Sports Information Intern
February 7, 2002
A solid nucleus of returning veterans has their sights set on taking the Bluffton College baseball squad to the upper level of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference in 2002. Led by four talented seniors and head coach Greg Brooks, who is entering his 22nd season at BC and owns a school record 252 wins, the Beavers are planning to do just that.
Bluffton will be suiting up 22 players this season, 13 of which saw significant varsity playing time last season. BC is aiming for a sixth straight double-digit win total season and a top four finish in the HCAC, which would qualify them for the conference tournament.
Graduation took away three players from last seasons 13-25 squad, including Jeff Haulman, Luke Habegger, and Bill Bechtel. Haulman was an All-HCAC selection last season after leading the in HCAC hitting at .423 with seven doubles and a .464 on base percentage. Habegger (.244) and Bechtel (2-4, 3.77 era) will also be missed.
A group of four talented seniors will be suiting up for their final season with the Beavers with hopes of bringing home a conference championship. These four seniors include Brad Buckingham (Geneva, Ind /South Adams), Dustin Kreis (North Union/Richwood), Todd Pickthorn (Miamisburg) and Ben Schwab (Holgate).
Buckingham batted .367, which was third on the team in 2001 and his 47 hits and 57 total bases led BC. He has been an all-conference selection three times in his career at BC. Kreis (.195, 16 H), who was an All-HCAC selection in 2000, returns to play left field, Pickthorn (.290, 36 H, 22 rbi), also a all-conference member in 2000, will be back at shortstop for the Beavers, and Schwab (.222, 4 HR) will be the man behind the plate again this season. All four players have been named to the All-Tournament team of the EMU Sarasota Spring Classic at least once in their careers.
Three key returning sophomores include pitcher/infielder Bob Hietkamp (.400, 2-5, 44 K's), infielder Dan Crider (.302, 26 H), and pitcher/infielder Kyle Alberson (.289, 7 HR). Juniors returning to the team this season are first baseman Tony Boenker (.984 fielding percentage) and pitcher Wes Hall (4-5). Other sophomore returning players include, Scott Van Eman (.211), Jim Dwenger (.205), who started 14 games last season, Josh Underwood (1-2, 4.05 era) and Ryan Whitaker (0-1, 8 appearances).
Nine new players will suite up for BC this season, including junior Joel Taylor (Bluffton) and freshman Mark Gable (Alvordton/Hilltop), Jeff Hinderschied (Aurora), Jon Mershman (Ottawa/Ottawa-Glandorf), Jason Moore (Elida), Brad Moore (Fredericktown), Jason Mitchell (Sunbury/Buckeye Valley), Nathan Mowry (Radnor/Buckeye Valley), and Phil Rasey (Archbold).
Another new face will be seen on the Beavers in assistant coach Vince Wakefield, who was a pitcher for the Beavers from 1994-1997.
Bluffton will open their 2002 campaign in Sarasota, Florida on March 4, when they will participate in the Sarasota Spring Classic hosted by Eastern Mennonite University. Other teams participating include, Kenyon College (Ohio), Juniata College (Pennsylvania) and Moravian College (Pennsylvania).