One Pitch at a Time
By Kate Barringer, sport information assistant
February 22, 2006
Excitement, young talent and the attitude to 'take one pitch at a time' are just a few of the reasons why the Bluffton University baseball team is looking forward to having a successful season. After battling in many close games last year and finishing 9-28 overall and 6-15 in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, the Beavers know they have what it takes to develop a winning tradition.
"I am looking forward to the fact that we are better and young," said Coach James Grandey. "There is a tremendous amount of competition for spots in our lineup. We would like to have a .500 season, but we are going to have to play well all year to make that a reality."
According to Grandey there has been much improvement since he entered the program three years ago. During his first year the Beavers lost many games by multiple runs and generally lacked consistency. Last year, there were 16 games lost by two runs or less, including eight HCAC contests. Grandey says that it is important to look at why they lost close games. Reasons for those close losses included a key error, an untimely base on balls and lack of production with runners in scoring position. But this year with a total of 29 sophomores and freshmen, the strength is a talented group of younger players, a solid senior class and increased depth at all positions. Because of this, Grandey is using the motto of taking each game one pitch at a time, remembering that the next pitch is the most important.
The six seniors are going to be looked to for the experience that they have gathered during their four years and their ability to be leaders for the underclassmen.
"I am expecting them to pass their knowledge on and do have good seasons," Grandey said. "They need to be solid and steady to impart what they have learned in the past three years."
The seniors are led by team captains Tony Gerig (West Unity/Hilltop), who is a consistent player and does the little things well, and catcher Steve Bogner (Willard/Willard). Pitcher Randy Miller (Willard/Willard) needs to win games in order for the team to be successful. Experienced seniors who bring knowledge and leadership include outfielder/pitcher Riordan McClain (Upper Sandusky/Upper Sandusky), outfielder Lowell Wyse (Camden, Mich./ Hesston J.C.) and pitcher Aaron Krieger (Ida, Mich/Ida). Junior hurler Craig Becker (Pataskala/Licking Hights) rounds out the upperclassmen.
Young talent, starting with the sophomores, includes third baseman Kyle White (Berne, Ind./South Adams), who started in all 37 games last year as a freshman, infielder Tony Moore (Elida/Elida), who played in 29 games as a freshman, and transfer shortstop Ryan Baightel (Wapakoneta/Wapakoneta). Pitcher Tim Kay (Alpharetta Ga./Blessed Trinity) returns to the mound after starting nine games for the Beavers as a freshman. Jimmy McMonagle (Ida, Mich./Ida) and Chris Bauman (Milford/Milford) are both expected to battle for starting spots on the 2006 squad after making significant contributions a year ago.
Key newcomers who will compete for time on the diamond include pitchers Justin Jones (Washington Court House/Washington Senior), Matt Perkins (Convoy/Crestview), James Hausman (Milford/Milford), Tyler Hill (London/London) and Steve Roberts (West Salem/Mapleton), along with catchers Curtis Schroeder (Shelby/Shelby) and Deron Steinke (Wapakoneta/St.Mary's). Freshman outfielders Tyler Williams (Lima/Lima Senior) and Allan Slabaugh (Dalton/Dalton) along with infielders Corey Conn (London/London) and Justin Penwell (Washington Court House/Washington Senior) will provide depth for the Beavers this season.
There are a multitude of positives for Bluffton, including roster size, talent and skill level. It will be essential for the Beavers to 'take one pitch at a time' and to understand the big picture.
"We are so young and our future is bright," Grandey said. "It is important to remember that we are building a program. The development of the younger players is very important for our success this year and in the future."