April 7, 2008
The First Pitch: Butler returns to Indianapolis this week for the first four contests in a five-game home stand. The Bulldogs open up on Tuesday (April 8) at 3:00 p.m. when they host Indiana Tech for the second time this season before kicking off a three-game set against Horizon League foe Wright State on Friday (April 11) at 3:00 p.m. The series with the Raiders concludes with a double-header on Saturday (April 12) beginning at 12:00 noon.
Butler Baseball On The Air: Brian Giffin and Brian Scott will broadcast the three-game series against Wright State this weekend. The games can be heard live via streaming audio online at www.ButlerSports.com, courtesy of Big Play Radio Sports, and in the Butler campus area on 100.1 FM.
Previewing The Bulldogs: Butler enters a critical Horizon League weekend series with a 6-17 overall record and a 3-6 mark in conference play. The Bulldog pitching staff continues to be one of the most accurate in the league, boasting the third-fewest total walks per game while touting a 1.54 strikeouts to walks ratio. Juniors Matt Sokolowski and Ryan Kruszka each put up strong showings at UIC over the weekend, with Sokolowski going 8.0 innings without allowing an earned run while Kruszka gave up no earned runs in 6.0 frames. Junior Joe Ochs picked up his team-leading third win of the season against Marian on April 2 while extending his streak of consecutive scoreless innings to 17. The offense has boosted its team batting average in Horizon League contests to .303 while going 7-for-7 in stolen bases. Outfielder Colin Ziegel has continued to wield one of the hottest bats during conference play, batting a team-high .423 with 10 RBI and a whopping .923 slugging percentage. Senior infielders Ryan Neat and Joe Pauley have added an additional pop to the line-up with three home runs and 40 total bases between them. Head coach Steve Farley, who coached in his 1,000th career game and 900th at Butler last weekend, is 421-478-1 in his 17th season with the Bulldogs.
Coach Farley's Thoughts: "UIC has an outstanding team and they are well coached. Our guys played hard all weekend and it was disappointing to lose a couple of one-run ball games when we had leads late in both games. Matt Sokolowski and Ryan Kruszka pitched very well in starting roles and Evan DePotter was solid in relief. Our hitters showed a lot of heart in game three by coming back to score three runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game against the top closer in the league. Nothing comes easy in our conference -- every team in the league battles and there are plenty of one-run games each weekend. We need to keep practicing hard and believing in ourselves. As long as our team shows a positive attitude and a great work ethic, we feel we are due to win some close ball games this week."
Mr. 1,000: When the second game of the Bulldogs' double-header against UIC on Saturday (April 5) became official in the fifth inning, Butler head coach Steve Farley had formally gone where few college coaches have gone before. The contest marked the 1,000th game on the bench for the 19-year veteran and was the mentor's 900th game coached in his 17 seasons at Butler.
Hot Streak: Since giving up seven runs in 4.0 innings of work in his first outing of the year at No. 17 Kentucky, junior left-hander Joe Ochs has shut down opponents bats, pitching 17.0 consecutive innings without allowing a single run, earned or unearned. During that span, he has scattered eight hits, struck out 10 and walked none while posting a team-best 3-0 record.
...And More Streaking: Junior outfielder Colin Ziegel has hit safely in six straight games, the longest active streak by a Bulldog and tied for the longest trek of the season.
Hard-Luck Hurler: Junior left-hander Matt Sokolowski has been one of the Bulldogs top pitchers this season, ranking second among starters with a 5.05 ERA with 14 strikeouts and only three walks. The southpaw doesn't have much to show for it, however, as he is 0-4 in five starts this season. Sokolowski turned in another gem of a game against UIC over the weekend, taking a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth before the Flames plated two unearned runs in the inning to spoil the win.
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 2.69 walks per game in the last 14 contests, including two or fewer in eight of those. The Bulldogs rank third in the Horizon League with 3.39 walks allowed per game.
No Free Passes: Opponents have had the least amount of success reaching base via the walk against junior Jeff Sinkiewicz. The Butler right-hander is fourth on the team with 23.2 innings pitched but has allowed just one walk while striking out 10.
League Of Their Own: Butler has found much more success at the plate in Horizon League play than it did during the non-conference slate. In 14 non-league games, the Bulldogs have posted a .206 batting average, while Butler touts an impressive .303 mark in nine conference contests.
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 on his resume, however, was a collegiate home run. That has all changed in the third game of this season, as Neat belted his first career long ball at No. 17 Kentucky on March 1. He is currently tied for the team lead with three home runs.
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.
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 14 runs scored, but his career totals are among the best in school history. With 118 career runs scored, he is now just 32 shy of the all-time mark (150).
Major League Calling: Former Butler pitcher Pat Neshek has continued to thrive with the Minnesota Twins in his third year at the MLB level this season. In three appearances to date, he has struck out four and allowed just one hit in 3.1 innings pitched. He finished last season 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 closes out its five-game home stand on Wednesday, April 16, when it hosts Cincinnati beginning at 3:00 p.m. The Bulldogs then head east to take on Youngstown State in a double-header on Saturday, April 19, before battling Cleveland State in a twin-bill on Sunday, April 20.