March 25, 2008

Baseball Hosts IPFW, Milwaukee This Week

March 25, 2008

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The First Pitch: Butler welcomes IPFW to Indianapolis on Tuesday (March 25) at 3:00 p.m. when it makes up a rained-out contest with the Mastodons from March 19. The Bulldogs then head to Louisville on Wednesday (March 26) for a 12:00 noon game before returning home to host Horizon League rival Milwaukee in a three-game set beginning on Friday (March 28).

Coach Farley's Thoughts: "The series against Youngstown State was a hard fought one, with both teams playing with a lot of intensity. I thought our pitching staff did an excellent job. To only walk four batters over three games is outstanding. Our defense was good, but we know we need to make more plays if we want to continue to improve. We got some clutch hits from several guys, but we still need more players contributing in our offensive plan. In the second game on Saturday we hit some line drives that YSU made some nice plays on. That's baseball sometimes. If a Butler hitter gets his pitch and hits the ball hard, that's all I can ask for. I told our guys that it was a typical Horizon League weekend: hard fought games that come down to making a big pitch or getting a clutch hit. We took a positive step forward as a team and we hope to continue that trend in our games this week."

Previewing The Bulldogs: Butler has begun to turn things around in the last few games after a tough start to the season, winning three of its last four games including a pair against Horizon League foe Youngstown State. The Bulldogs pitching staff has been the key element in the team's recent success, boasting a 1.50 ERA while holding three teams to two runs or fewer in the last four contests. Junior right-hander Ryan Kruszka put together Butler's best start of the season so far, holding YSU to just an unearned run in getting his first win of the year, while lefties Matt Sokolowski and Bryan Bokowy each worked seven-plus innings in starts last weekend. Joe Ochs and Tyler Szymczak both earned their first saves of the year against the Penguins. Freshman Grant Fillipitch has been one of the team's top hitters in the early part of the season, leading the squad with 15 hits and five RBI. Senior captain Ryan Neat paces the team with a pair of home runs, the first of his career, and boasts a team-high 21 total bases, while senior Joe Pauley leads the team with five runs scored and a pair of steals. Head coach Steve Farley, the winningest baseball coach in school history, is 418-472-1 in 17 seasons at Butler.

League Season Starts Well: After struggling to a 1-10 non-conference record to start the season, the Bulldogs put together a successful Horizon League opening weekend against Youngstown State, winning the first two games before falling in the finale. Butler batted .244 as a team while posting a 1.67 ERA. In non-league play, the Bulldogs have batted only .173 while recording an 8.41 ERA.

Senior Success: Seniors Ryan Neat and Joe Pauley had a big impact at the plate in the Bulldogs' first Horizon League series of the year. Neat finished with a 3-for-10 mark at the plate (.300) with a home run and two doubles while boasting an .800 slugging percentage to lead the team. Pauley, meanwhile, went 4-for-11 at the plate (.364) with three doubles, two runs scored and an RBI while swiping his second base of the season.

Kruszing Along: Junior right-hander Ryan Kruszka put together his strongest outing of the year while leading the Bulldogs to their first league win of the season, going seven innings while allowing only an unearned run to Youngstown State. He finished with six strikeouts while yielding just three hits (all singles) and two walks.

Control Freaks: Part of the reason for the Bulldogs pitching success of late has been its ability to locate the strike zone. In the last four games, Butler has yielded just five walks, including the March 21 contest against Youngstown State in which no walks were issued and two others where only one was allowed. The Bulldogs rank second in the Horizon League with 46 free passes in 14 games.

Unexpected Power Source: Senior captain Ryan Neat has found plenty of success as a corner infielder with the Bulldogs in the past three years The Speedway, Ind., native entered the 2008 campaign with a career .295 average in 77 games played. The one thing lacking from his resume, however, was a collegiate home run. That all changed in the third game of the year at Kentucky on March 1, as Neat hammered a two-out home run to left in the fifth inning. This past Friday (March 21), he was at it again, this time hitting a shot over the fence in straight-away center. His two homers lead the team.

Rookie Sensations: Butler received a lot of help at the plate from its freshman class this season, as 24 of the team's 82 hits (29 percent) have come off the bats of rookie players. Grant Fillipitch leads the team with 15 hits, while Luke Duncan (4), Michael Letzter (3) and Brian Bajer (2) have also had success early in their first collegiate seasons. 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.

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 touts 109 career runs scored and is 41 shy of the all-time mark.

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 991 ball games and is just nine 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 418 Butler wins.

On Deck: Butler takes on Marian at Victory Field, home of the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians, on Wednesday (April 2) beginning at 4:00 p.m. before heading to Chicago for a three-game series against UIC on Friday and Saturday (April 4-5).