With five starters and 10 pitchers returning from last year's squad, the Butler baseball team is ready to take the diamond. BU, which won 23 games last season, will open the 2012 campaign with four games at Fresno State this weekend.
Senior Mike Hernandez will take the ball for the season opener Friday night. Hernandez won five games in 15 starts last year and struck out 60. He enters the season 17th among active D-I pitchers with 176 career strikeouts.
Saturday's doubleheader will see 6-4 lefty Kevin Lenkman and 6-6 righty Billy Laing starting for Butler. Lenkman is a junior from John Wood Community College and Laing is returning after missing the 2011 season due to injury. Laing made 18 appearances as a freshman in 2010.
Kyle Kramp, last year's mid-week starter, will take the ball Sunday afternoon in the fourth game. The right-hander, who was drafted by the San Francisco Giants out of high school, started eight games and totaled 32.0 innings of work last season.
The pitching staff is deep, with newcomers Lenkman, Will Schierholz, Eric Stout, Kyle Allen and Derek Higgins joining the team's 10 returning pitchers. Butler also returns All-Horizon League right-hander Dom Silvestri, who went 6-5 with a 4.07 ERA last season as well as seniors Brad Schnitzer and Ryan Salvino.
In the infield, the Bulldogs are anchored by senior shortstop Griffin Richeson. The senior middle infielder batted .308 last season with 18 runs scored. Newcomers Jimmy Risi and Lucas Calderon figure to see playing time on the right side, with Risi providing a power bat at first base. Calderon, a transfer from Saint Louis who sat out last year, had an impressive fall at second base and at the plate.
Patrick Guinane was a Horizon League All-Newcomer Team pick last year after batting .402, and when healthy he will return to play third base. Juniors Bob Akin and Pat Gelwicks will also play the corner spots, and Gelwicks has experience as a DH. Marco Caponi and newcomers Austin Miller and Michael Fries are other options for BU.
Senior Mike Hoscheit is back and will start in right field after hitting .302 with 14 extra-base hits a year ago. Hoscheit really hit his stride in Horizon League play last year, batting .359 with a team-best 20 RBIs. Junior Jack Dillon is one of the team's most athletic players and he'll play in left field. Andrew Eckhardt, a starter last year, and Marcos Calderon will figure prominently into the outfield picture. Stout and Fries are also listed as potential outfielders.
Butler has a new catcher in Radley Haddad, an Indy native who transferred to Butler from Western Carolina. He will be joined by senior Nick Hladek, who can also DH as well as catch. Senior Brian Padove is another catcher who returns in a utility role. Padove was effective last season as a side-arm reliever, posting a 2.62 ERA over 21 appearances. He had a 1.20 ERA against league opponents. Another newcomer is Ryan Wojciechowski, a Georgia native who sat out last season.