Experienced Beavers Anxious to Make Impact in the HCAC
By: Brandy Bidlack, sports information assistant
February 20, 2008
Click here to view HCAC 2008 pre-season coaches poll (PDF)
Following a year of trials and tribulations, the Bluffton University baseball team
is ready to take the next step in its healing process. James Grandey, in his fifth
year as head coach at Bluffton, will count on his eight seniors to help the Beavers
return to the form they showed in 2006 when Bluffton tied for second place in the
Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference and narrowly missed out on qualifying for
the post-season tournament. Although the memories of the March 2, 2007, accident will
always remain, the players and coaches are anxious to put on their uniforms and return
to the diamond in 2008.
||Having faced a multitude of both physical and emotional challenges during the past
12 months, the experienced Beavers understand that each day offers a new opportunity
to work on improvement individually as well as collectively. Ready to provide leadership
is two-year starting shortstop Ryan Baightel (Wapakoneta/Wapakoneta). Former All-Mideast Region and first team All-HCAC selection
Tony Moore (Elida/Elida), who is the Bluffton single-season hits leader with 61, will anchor
the outfield again this season. Junior Curtis Schroeder (Shelby/Shelby), a two-year starter behind the plate, will provide stability for
an experienced core of pitchers who will take the mound for the Beavers.
The Bluffton pitching rotation features an outstanding one-two punch for Coach Grandey
to pencil in during the weekend Heartland Conference contests. Back for his final
season at Bluffton is 2007 All-HCAC first team selection Tim Kay (Alpharetta, Ga./Blessed Trinity). The senior standout, who was an All-Mideast Region
selection and HCAC Player of the Month in April of 2007, finished the season with
a 2.79 earned run average, while tattooing opposing pitching at a .459 clip with 34
hits, 15 runs and 17 runs batted in. He finished the season with a conference best
.545 on-base percentage and stole 11 bases with a .649 slugging percentage. The other
half of Bluffton's experienced starting combination is junior Matt Perkins (Convoy/Crestview) who tossed five consecutive complete games and pitched for the
Anderson Servants of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League last summer.
|Two other starters who saw action for Bluffton a year ago are sophomore Cody McPherson (Millbury/Lake), an All-HCAC honoree for his work in the outfield, and junior James Hausman (Milford/Milford). Junior transfer Dustin Zizelman (Rockford/Parkway) will also compete for a starting spot this season. An experienced
bullpen features a pair of righthanders who are back for their senior campaigns. Tyler Sprunger (Berne, Ind./South Adams) and Will Gerber (Kidron/Central Christian) provide a formidable presence for Coach Grandey to call
on in the late innings.
|One of Grandey's many strengths is recruiting talented freshmen baseball players to
Bluffton and this year's class is no exception. First-year players Brett Howard (Toledo/St. Francis DeSales), Adrian Fritch (Edon/Edon), and Aaron Tuttle (Frankton, Ind./Frankton) may see time on the field early in the season.
The 2008 edition of Bluffton University baseball has set its sights high and the Beavers
intend to achieve their goals. As Coach Grandey stated, "There are seniors who have
played on this team all four years and their experience will reflect in strong leadership.
They all love the game and are excited to get back on the field." A combination of
experience and passion will provide the backbone for the Beavers as they approach
each challenge step-by-step.
With the completion of the Bluffton University Memorial Field just weeks away, the
Beavers are preparing to make their annual trip to Florida during Spring Break. On
the one year anniversary of the tragic crash that claimed the lives of five Bluffton
baseball players, Eastern Mennonite University will host the Beavers in Sarasota,
Fla. Following the season opener, Bluffton will play nine games over the next six
days at the Gene Cusic Classis in Fort Myers, Fla., including a doubleheader with
Grandey's alma mater, Muskingum College.
Following the return from Florida, the Beavers travel to Thomas More for a pair of
games against the Saints on March 15, before Muskingum helps Bluffton christen the
newly-renovated Memorial Field on Tuesday, March 18. With a blend of youthful exuberance
and experienced talent, Coach Grandey is confident that the Beavers can make a significant
impact in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference.