March 17, 2008

Baseball Opens League Season At Home This Weekend

March 17, 2008

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The First Pitch: The Bulldogs return to Indianapolis for four straight home games at Bulldog Park. Butler welcomes non-conference foe IPFW to town on Wednesday (March 19) for a 3:00 p.m. contest before kicking off the Horizon League slate on over the weekend with a three-game set against Youngstown State on Friday and Saturday (March 21-22).

Coach Farley's Thoughts: "I'm proud of the way our players have dealt with adversity over the early part of our non-conference schedule. Over the past two weeks, we've had nine different players miss games due to injuries. We've dealt with brutal weather and poor field conditions. We took on one of the top teams in the country (Kentucky) without having been outside for a single practice (UK enters the week at 16-0). We played a great series this past weekend against a very good Tennessee Tech team. We were just one big hit away from winning on Friday and the guys battled back with an outstanding performance on Sunday. The past couple of weeks have been a great test of character for our team and I'm confident these guys will continue to work hard in every game we play. Matt Sokolowski, Tyler Szymczak and Jeff Sinkiewicz were all outstanding on the mound this weekend and Grant Fillipitch picked us up with a huge hit on Sunday. Joe Pauley broke out of a hitting slump and looks to be back on track."

Previewing The Bulldogs: Butler scored its first win of the spring after a rough start to the 2008 campaign, defeating Tennessee Tech, 3-2, to move to 1-10 on the season. The Bulldogs pitching staff should be key to the team's success this season, as all but two of its 14 pitchers that saw action in 2007 will be in uniform. Senior right-hander Jon Dages returns as Butler's ace for the second season in a row after finishing ranked among the Horizon League's best in six categories, including a league second-best 3.40 ERA. Senior southpaw Bryan Bokowy, senior righty Brian Deter and junior right-hander Ryan Kruszka round out the bevy of experienced arms in the Butler arsenal. Butler's freshman class, meanwhile, has already been seeing significant playing time this year, with five position players earning at least one start and one (Grant Fillipitch) starting in all 11 games. Shortstop and first are two of the few positions anchored by seasoned vets. Senior shortstop Joe Pauley, the team's top returning hitter from 2007, holds down the spot after batting .324 with a team-best 68 hits and 41 runs scored last season, while senior first baseman Ryan Neat adds steady hands at the right corner of the infield. The veteran outfield corps of seniors Nate Hart and Kyle McLaughlin and junior Rick Betsch give the Bulldogs consistent hitting in the lineup and speed in the field, while junior Alex Montagano could see regular time at DH. Head coach Steve Farley, the winningest baseball coach in school history, is 416-471-1 in his 17th season with the Bulldogs.

League Slate Begins: Butler opens up the Horizon League season this weekend when it hosts Youngstown State from March 21-22. The Bulldogs went 2-5 against the Penguins in 2007, including a loss in the Horizon League Tournament. Butler finished with a 10-20 record against league foes last season.

Back To Winning Ways: After a sluggish start to the season, the Bulldogs notched one in the win column on Sunday (March 16) with a 3-2 come-from-behind triumph over host Tennessee Tech. With two down in the seventh, Kyle Schultz and Steve Darragh kept the inning alive after being hit by pitches. A walk to Brian Bajer loaded the bases for Colin Ziegel, who beat out a bouncer back toward the pitcher to plate the Bulldogs first run of the game. Grant Fillipitch followed Ziegel and ripped the very first offering of the at bat into left center for a double that plated pinch runner Luke Duncan and Bajer for the tying and go-ahead runs.

Rookie Sensations: Butler received a lot of help at the plate from its freshman class this season, as 17 of the team's 60 hits (28 percent) have come off the bats of rookie players. Grant Fillipitch leads the team with 12 hits, while Brian Bajer (2), Luke Duncan (2) and Michael Letzter (1) have also had success as freshmen.

Captain Neat: Senior infielder Ryan Neat was unanimously selected by a vote of the players as the Bulldogs' team captain for the 2008 season. Neat is currently fifth on the team with a .200 batting average (8-for-40) and has started in all 11 games this year.

Pitching In: The Bulldogs return 12 of their 14 pitchers who saw action last season, accounting for 448.1 of the 476 innings pitched in 2007. Butler finished second in the Horizon League with a 4.78 team ERA and with 170 walks allowed.

Dages Takes The Lead: Right-hander Jon Dages enters his senior season as the team's ace after logging a team-best 98.0 innings during the 2007 campaign. One of the top pitchers in the Horizon League last year, he ranked in the top-10 in the conference in six categories, including starts (16), ERA (3.40), strikeouts (62) and innings pitched (98.0). He is also just 84.1 innings away from becoming Butler's all-time leader in career innings pitched (309.2).

Not Your Average Joe: Senior shortstop Joe Pauley is Butler's top returning hitter after batting .324 with a team-leading 68 hits, 41 runs, 11 doubles and 96 total bases in 2007. An all-league first team member as a sophomore and all-league second team honoree as a freshman, he is 44 runs away from becoming Butler's all-time runs leader (151).

A Professional Touch: The Butler baseball team's 2008 schedule features a professional touch, as the Bulldogs take on cross-town foe Marian at Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis. Victory Field serves as the home of the Indianapolis Indians, the Triple-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Major League Calling: Former Butler pitcher Pat Neshek continued to thrive with the Minnesota Twins in his second year at the MLB level in 2007. He finished with a 7-2 record, a 2.94 ERA, 74 strikeouts and only 27 walks in 70.1 innings of work and was one of five players named to the Final Vote Ballot for the All Star Game in just his first full season. Neshek, a three-year letterwinner with the Bulldogs, holds school records for strikeouts in a game (18), season (118) and career (280).

Milestone Ahead For Farley: The 2008 season will feature a significant milestone for head coach Steve Farley, who enters his 17th season with the Bulldogs and his 20th as a collegiate head coach. In his 19 years on the bench, Farley has been a part of 988 ball games and is just 12 shy of his 1,000th. After notching his 400th victory at the school just last season, Farley stands as the program's most successful mentor with 416 Butler wins.

On Deck: Butler returns to the road for a single game at Louisville on March 26 before welcoming Horizon League rival Milwaukee to Indianapolis for a three-game series fro March 28-29.