The Oglethorpe baseball team starts its season this week against Emory on Wednesday, followed by a three-game weekend series at Huntingdon. The squad embarks on its inaugural SAA campaign with a team that features a mix of veterans and newcomers.
The Petrels will welcome back three veterans and seven new arms in 2013. The staff will be anchored by two senior starters who have shown they can win on any given day. The staff ace will be senior Emmett Goodman, who led the team in wins (4), ERA (4.64), innings pitched (64), games started (12) and strikeouts (65) in 2012. Emmett continues to mature as a pitcher and looks primed for a big 2013 campaign. Behind Goodman, the team will count on senior Cory Leff to serve as the second weekend starter. Cory, in eight career starts and 73 innings pitched, has posted three wins and a 3.45 ERA while striking out 51. The third conference starter has yet to be determined but several arms are in the mix. Two lefties, sophomore Joey McAlpin and freshman Kyle Mitchell look to have the inside track on the spot. Both have impressed the coaching staff with their stuff and are just looking for more consistency from the pair. The biggest upgrade from the 2012 squad will be the bullpen. Junior David Langhan will anchor the relief core and will be counted on to pitch in high-leverage situations. He has experience as both a starter and a reliever but has really excelled working out of the bullpen. Freshman Sam Franklin has been very impressive early in the spring after a very good fall season. He can work as either a starter or a reliever. In either role, he will pitch some big innings for the Petrels. Freshman Joseph Marco has a live arm and has been electric in preseason preparation. Look for him to be part of the three-headed monster out of the Petrels bullpen that should shorten the games on opposing teams. Freshman Kolin Zimmer, freshman Spencer Transue, and freshman Justin Thigpen will be asked to log some quality innings in 2013 and provide superior depth to the bullpen. Sophomore Cody Campbell and freshman Jake Purcell add even more depth and the coaching staff expects them to push for innings as they continue to improve. The pitching staff will be strength for this team in 2013 and for the foreseeable future.
"I think we have improved so much on the mound from 2012. It was our biggest need and the freshmen have come along nicely," says head coach Dan Giordano. "I am really looking for Emmett Goodman and Cory Leff to have good years. Both have been so solid for us in the past and they have put in the work to succeed. David Langhan is a guy to look out for this year. He's going to be our go-to guy late in games and he has the stuff, makeup and maturity to excel in that role. Sam Franklin and Joseph Marco are two young guys who will be make an impact from Day 1."
The Petrels will turn to senior Jeff Brothers and junior Hunter Riley to handle the catching duties for the 2013 campaign. Brothers will hit in the middle of the lineup and provides some pop from the left side of the plate. The coaching staff believes he is ready to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2012 season that saw his offensive output drop. When healthy, he can change the game with one swing. Riley will serve as the backup, but should expect to see significant time with 40 games bunched into the three months of the season. Both players are accustomed to the college game and offer the young pitching staff some reliability and leadership.
The starting infield will be a blend of veteran and freshman players. Junior TJ Schmutz will anchor the infield at shortstop and looks to improve on a solid sophomore campaign where he hit .292 with 12 runs scored and 12 RBIs in 27 starts. His double-play partners will be freshman Spencer Transue and junior Will Hanna, who will most likely split time at second base. Transue has impressed the coaches since he stepped on campus and will also serve as the backup shortstop. He is a steady fielder and brings tremendous enthusiasm to the club. Hanna offers the Petrels a veteran presence and has shown he can play great defense. Third base will be manned by freshman Keith Dearden who transferred to OU in the fall. Dearden brings a solid glove, strong arm and powerful stroke to the lineup. He will be a big part of the Petrels offense in 2013. First base will be shared by juniors Casey Tuttle and Frank Sarno. Tuttle hit .280 with 13 RBIs in 22 starts in 2012 and had a good fall at the plate. Sarno, who spent 2012 as the backup third baseman, brings his steady glove and strong arm to first base. In 59 at-bats in 2012, he hit .220 with eight RBIs. A group of freshmen and a transfer give the Petrels great depth around the infield. Freshmen Jake Purcell and Justin Thigpen will fight for playing time at first base. Purcell has greatpop from the left side of the plate, while switch-hitting Thigpen has tremendous upside as he has shown a powerful stroke from both sides of the plate. Freshmen Alex Attebery and Frankie Vascimini, and junior Billy Mayberry, will work into the mix at second base and shortstop and have made great improvements since the fall.
Senior Nick Manai looks to once again to be a steady force at the plate for the Petrels. Manai is a career .330 hitter and in his two years as a full-time starter he has averaged 25 runs scored and 25 RBIs. He brings a solid glove and strong arm to the right-field position. Sophomore Vernon Trice will once again roam center field and leadoff. Trice is a great athlete with tremendous speed and a solid bat. He started all 41 games in 2012 and led the team in runs scored (39) and stolen bases (21). One of the keys to the Petrel offense is getting Trice on base to cause havoc on opposing teams. Left field will most likely be a platoon. Sophomore Joey McAlpin and freshman Casey Innis will get the first crack at nailing down the position. Senior Cory Leff, junior Will Hanna and Anthony Amato will also see time in left.
Defensively, Coach Giordano likes the potential he sees in this team. "We didn't defend the field very well at times last year; we were just too inconsistent. I think after a year of maturity we will be more relaxed in the field which should help us out," he said. "Vernon Trice and Nick Manai are as good as it gets in the outfield. The infield should be much improved this year and both of our catchers have shown they can play that demanding position. Team defense has to be strength this year and I think it will."
Offensively, Coach Giordano sees the potential for an exciting lineup based on speed and baserunning. "We are not going to be a team that is going to outslug our opponents. We have decent team speed and have been working hard on our base-running skills. The focus this year has been more on moving runners and taking extra bases," Giordano said. "There are a few guys in the lineup that give us some pop and can change a game with one swing. Overall, I think we are starting to find an offensive identity and we need to continue to improve at the smaller things to increase our run production."
The Oglethorpe coach is excited about the possibilities of the upcoming season. "I don't like to give predictions…our focus has been and will be one out at a time," he said. "We have a solid, well-rounded roster and as long as we keep improving on a daily basis, then everything else will take care of itself."