Jan. 25, 2006
Butler's baseball team looks to improve on a 19-35 record from a year ago with a large crop of new faces. Coach Steve Farley has added 19 new players to his program this season, the largest recruiting class in the Horizon League.
After averaging 32 wins in the three seasons prior to 2005, the Bulldogs look to get back on track. "No doubt about it, last year was a very disappointing season for us," Farley said. "We didn't show the competitiveness and fire that our program has been known for. Last year is old news. We've turned the page and now we can't wait to get this new season started."
Butler's pitching staff returns two seniors in Craig Costello and Pat Feeney. Costello threw a no-hitter vs. UW-Milwaukee in 2004 and led the team with five wins a year ago. Both have logged quality innings in their Butler careers. Butler also returns sophomore Bryan Bokowy, who led the team with 53 strikeouts. Jon Dages, another sophomore who tallied 51 strikeouts and led Butler with a 4.76 ERA, also returns. Sophomores Brian Deter and Josh Vollmer also return with experience for the Bulldogs. Butler has added eight newcomers to the pitching staff that are ready for action this spring. "I wanted to bump up the competition level and force some guys to raise their intensity level," Farley said. Butler's fresh faces on the mound include Jeff Sinkiwicz, Ryan Kruszka, Joe Ochs, Evan DePotter, Matt Sokolowski, Tyler Tepe, and Gabriel and Renato Araujo.
Behind the plate, Butler's returning starters at catcher are both recovering from fall-season injuries. Senior Brandon Tormoehlen looks to come back from a shoulder injury and junior Joe Dempsey, who led Butler with four home runs, is recovering from a knee injury. These injuries gave the Bulldogs time to scope out new arrivals at the position. Austin Nickol, who led Brownsburg High School to a state championship last year, Edwin Rodriguez, and Alex Montagano all saw action this fall. "We expect Joe and Brandon to be healthy when the season starts and they'll get plenty of action," says Farley. "It's great that the freshman got thrown right into the mix this fall. I have confidence that they will be ready when called upon."
Butler returns three seniors to a highly talented infield. Stephen Gill led Butler with 16 stolen bases last season. Clayton Deeb batted .317 for the Bulldogs. Jeff Brown returns after missing last season due to injuries. Brown, a started before his injury, figures to be the starting second baseman while Gill and Deeb will play multiple positions. Junior Matt Ferguson brings the ability to play several positions and hit for power as well. Sophomore Alex Rinearson, who finished last season with Butler's top batting average (.372), should start at first base. Joe Pauley, also a sophomore, figures to be the starting shortstop for the Bulldogs. Pauley finished last season with a .336 batting average. Sophomore Ryan Neat, who switched from second to first base last season, will give Butler a solid backup for Rinearson. Newcomers to the infield are Joel Matheny, Kyle Cox, Mike Stout, and Kyle Williams. "I think we have talent and depth at every infield position," Farley said. "I have confidence this infield group will get the job done this spring."
After losing Horizon League Player of the Year, Dale Mueller, the Bulldogs have some big shoes to fill. Looking to step in for Coach Farley in the outfield will be juniors Tony Barnes, Dustin Bucalo, Ricky Chomicz, and Aaron Thompson. Bucalo batted near .300 last season and played center field. Sophomore Kyle McLaughlin also figures to see some time in the outfield or at the DH spot. Sophomore Nate Hart, recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, should also figure into the equation. Butler also has three freshmen competing for playing time in the outfield. Rick Betsch, Andrew Piekarski, and Colin Ziegel all had strong fall seasons and look to contribute for the Bulldogs.
For the first time, Butler will play each Horizon League team in a three-game series at home and on the road for a total of six games against each league foe. The Bulldogs will open their season at Western Carolina on Saturday, Feb. 18.