Feb. 11, 2008
A Quick Look at Bearcat Baseball in 2008
MARYVILLE -- The Northwest Missouri State baseball team returns 19 players from the 2007 roster that finished third in the MIAA, but many spots are still undecided.
Upperclassmen, transfers and freshmen will be battling for a spot in the outfield, middle infield and behind the plate.
"This year we still have a lot of question marks as far as who's going to be playing at any number of positions," said head coach Darin Loe. "That's a good thing because we have competition at spots."
Despite the questions, Loe believes the competition for the many starting spots will bring out the best in all the players and make the Bearcats a better overall team.
"For team consistency I would like to choose one or at least narrow that field down," said Loe.
The Bearcats look to build on their 30-26 record from a year ago, but will have to replace their top pitcher, Brian Lamers, and two four-year starters in John White and Ryley Westman
"We need leaders to emerge," said Loe. "Our two leaders were John White and Ryley Westman last year."
Ben Malick and Britt Westman are two returner's that played all 56 games last year with great consistency, hitting .335 and .326, respectively, while Bret Harvel and Evan Nickell return sub 4.00 ERA's.
Six different players tabbed a start in the outfield in 2007 and all six return in 2008. Brandon Kirsch, Jake Bradshaw and Chris Benham gained the most starts among the six. That combination started 22 of the last 25 games.
Chris Benham and Todd Schonhoff will platoon in left for the starting job. Jake Bradshaw, Trevor Conner and Tim Avants will battle for center. Brandon Kirsch and Drew DeMott round out the outfield merry-go-round in right.
"Kirsch will be in the outfield everyday just because of his bat and what he did for us last year," said Loe.
Kirsch tied for the team lead in home runs with 11 and had a slugging percentage of .648 in 33 games played. Bradshaw displayed the most speed covering ground in center and swiping 17 bases in 23 attempts.
Three-year starter, Westman will anchor first base and junior Malick will occupy the hot corner at third.
Jon Henne, Jr., and Kreed Kurtz will battle to replace the shoes of Westman at catcher. Henne, Jr., hit .296 last season and started the last 17 games as the designated hitter.
Stevie Bush and Nick Pfeiffer will again vie for second base. Pfieffer's 2007 season was interrupted with a knee injury,. He played in 27 games and saw just three at-bats in the month of April. Bush hit .322 at the plate in his first season with Northwest.
Ryley Rocha and Ryan Bledsoe will attempt to replace White's shadow at shortstop. Both Bledsoe and Rocha are transfers with at least two years of college baseball experience. Bledsoe is a senior from Nichols State, while Rocha comes from Kansas City Kansas Community College.
"We don't have as many numbers as we did last year, but feel like we have higher quality,"
Loe about his pitching staff.
Harvel will lead a pitching staff that finished second in the MIAA in earned run average (ERA) last season and pitched six shutouts.
Danny Malone, Harvel and Joel Epley return to the starting rotation with southpaw Jeff Gradel, Jr., showing he could grab the number four spot in fall ball. Bill Dissellhoff, who also DH's and plays the infield, logged 44 2/3 innings on the mound with nine starts a season ago.
Adam Switzer, Zach Weston and Lefty Ben Stedronksy will provide the middle relief with Evan Nickell marked as the closer. Nickell recorded one save a season ago and led the team with 21 appearances.
Josh Mathews, Taylor Kroaniewski, Ben Briant, and Sean Brady round out the 2008 Bearcat pitching staff. Matthews, a senior quarterback this past fall, is putting on spikes for the first time at Northwest.
For more information, please contact:
Phillip Dowden, Media Relations/Sports Information
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