March 31, 2008
The First Pitch: The Bulldogs take on cross-town foe Marian on Wednesday (April 2) when the two teams square up at Victory Field, home of the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians, beginning at 4:00 p.m. Butler then resumes Horizon League play on the road this weekend, battling UIC in a single game on Friday (April 4) at 5:05 p.m. Eastern Time and a double-header on Saturday (April 5) at 2:05 p.m. ET.
More On The Victory Field Game: Tickets to the Bulldogs' game at Victory Field are $5, but students with an ID can get in for free by donating a canned food item at the gate. Marian will be the designated home team for the contest.
Previewing The Bulldogs: The Butler bats sprung to life last weekend, erupting for 36 runs in three games against league foe Milwaukee, but the Panthers touched up the Bulldog pitching staff for 42 runs in claiming two of the three contests. Thanks to some strong performances at the plate by several players last week, Butler improved its team average by nearly 50 points in just five games (.188 to .236). Outfielder Colin Ziegel put up the most impressive effort, batting a team-best .538 while posting a gaudy 1.238 slugging percentage, with five of his seven hits going for extra bases. Infielder Kyle Schultz matched Ziegel with a .538 batting average while registering a team-best .667 on-base percentage. Infielder Jason Jamerson, a starter in all five of the Bulldogs' games last week, led the squad with nine hits, while outfielder Kyle McLaughlin drove in a team-best eight RBI. The Butler pitching staff continues to be one of the most accurate in the league, boasting the second-fewest walks while striking out 1.65 for every free pass. Left-hander Joe Ochs picked up both of Butler's wins last week, working a total of eight scoreless innings, while righty Jeff Sinkiewicz gave up just two runs in a start at Louisville. Head coach Steve Farley, the winningest baseball coach in school history, is 420-475-1 in his 17th season at Butler.
Coach Farley's Thoughts: "I was very impressed with our pitching staff in the game at Louisville. To play head to head for 11 innings with a team coming off a College World Series appearance was outstanding. I'm proud of our hitters for their performance this past weekend against Milwaukee. Scoring 36 runs in a three game series is impressive. We talked about doing a better job of battling with two strikes and putting the ball in play, and our guys did that all weekend. Milwaukee has a very good hitting team and our pitchers got roughed up a little, but we'll shake that off and come back strong this week. We're looking forward to our game at Victory Field on Wednesday. Playing in a pro stadium is always a thrill for a college player. UIC has consistently been the top team in our league for the past several seasons, so we know we have a big challenge ahead next weekend in Chicago."
Milestone Nears For Farley: The final game of the weekend series at UIC on Saturday (April 5) will be a significant one in the career of head coach Steve Farley. The second game of the double-header against the Flames will be 1,000th collegiate game coached by Farley, who enters this week with 996 contests under his belt. In his 20th college season, he also boasts 473 career victories.
Just Plain Offensive: What a great time to be a bat. The Bulldog lineup put together an all-around staggering performance at the plate against Milwaukee last weekend, totaling 36 runs on 48 hits in three games. Meanwhile, Butler's .393 batting average on the weekend (48-for-122) boosted the team's mark from .198 at the start of the series to .236 just two days later.
That's What I Call Run Support: Butler's 22 runs scored against Milwaukee on Saturday (March 29) were the most in a single game since scoring 24 runs against Detroit in 2003.
Talk About Productivity: The weekend set with the Panthers proved to be just what the doctor ordered for several Butler players. After entering the series with four RBI on the year each, seniors Kyle McLaughlin and Joe Pauley needed only three games against Milwaukee to move than double their season out-put with six RBI a piece. Junior Colin Ziegel also drove in six runs against UWM, amounting to three times his season total (two) prior to the series.
Rookie Sensations: Butler received significant help at the plate from its freshman class this season, as 34 of the team's 150 hits (23 percent) have come off the bats of rookie players. Five of the freshmen have already collected their first collegiate hits, including Grant Fillipitch with a newcomer-high 16.
League Of Their Own: Butler has found much more success at the plate in Horizon League play this season. In 13 non-league games, the Bulldogs have posted a .189 batting average, while Butler touts an impressive .330 mark in conference contests.
Control Freaks: Part of the reason for the Bulldogs pitching success of late has been its ability to locate within the strike zone. Butler has allowed just 2.33 walks per game in the last nine contests, including two or fewer in six of those. The Bulldogs rank second in the Horizon League with 62 walks allowed and are second with a 1.65 strikeouts-to-walks ratio (102 strikeouts, 62 walks).
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 has all changed this season, Neat is currently tied for the team lead with two home runs.
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 has been one of the Bulldogs' top offensive players in his three-plus seasons. This year, he leads the team with 11 runs scored, but is career totals are among the best in school history. With 115 career runs scored, he is now just 35 shy of the all-time mark (150).
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).
On Deck: Butler welcomes Indiana Tech to Bulldog Park for the second time this year on Tuesday, April 8 at 3:00 p.m. The Horizon League slate continues over the weekend with Wright State coming to town for a three-game set beginning on Friday, April 11.