Spring Hill College head baseball coach Frank Sims is excited to open the 2013 season. "We have a good mix of experienced upperclassmen and talented young newcomers," he says. "We will still be oriented around a ‘small-ball' style of play where our offense will focus on timely hitting, bunting and base-running while our defense must play smart and error-free. Our pitching staff this year should be strong enough to hold down the run production from other teams. Playing fundamental baseball with good pitching, strong defense and scratching out runs is how we will win games."
On the mound, Sims' conference starting rotation will be very similar to last year's with seniors Casey Adams of Brooksville, Fla., Nick Schmiemeier from St. Louis, Mo., and Michael Moch of Cumming, Ga., going on Fridays and Saturdays. "Our weekend starters are very experienced and that's an advantage in the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) where you face some of the best hitters in the country week-in-and-week-out, says Sims. "Pitchers need to know how to get out of jams and be able to forget their bad pitches because you will give up hits and runs in the SSAC." Sophomore Wessley Parrish of Fairhope, Ala., and freshman Chris Rodriguez of Pembroke Pines, Fla., will start during the midweek and see time in relief.
The Badger middle relievers will also be an experienced squad with senior Jeff Keenum of Biloxi, Miss., junior Tyler Hutson of Town & Country, Mo., and sophomore Keller Douglas from Covington, La. "Our bullpen this year should be the deepest we've had in years and that gives us more choices than in the past," says Sims.
Senior Daniel Pitfield of Mandeville, La., senior David Dupuy from Mobile, and sophomore Jack Howard of Decatur, Ga., will add to Sims' choices from his pen while freshmen Paul Sullivan of St. Louis, Johnathan Billings of Luling, La., Trey Marshall of Destin, Fla., and Hunter Nowak Alpharetta, Ga., bring strong young arms to the Badger battery.
Around the infield, the Badgers return senior John Hollingsworth of Daphne, Ala., to 1st base where he has fielded at a .988 percentage over two seasons. Junior Brian Sims of Mobile also returns for his third season at 2nd base where he has turned 61 double plays and hits at a .349 pace. Sophomore Brooks Bobinger of Mobile rejoins the Badger infield at shortstop after sitting out 2012 with a medical redshirt. As a freshman in 2011, Bobinger proved to be an aggressive fielder and his absence was felt throughout the 2012 season. Freshman Willie Floros of University City, Mo., will take over at 3rd base.
The Badger reserve infielders will consist of junior 3rd baseman Rick LaForce of Irvington, Ala., who successfully took over for Bobinger during the 2012 campaign, along with freshmen Blake Toscano of Metairie, La., and Garrett Webb of Gainesville, Fla., both of whom will gain experience at shortstop and 2nd base as needed.
Sophomore Ryan Stevens of Theodore, Ala., will start behind the plate at catcher after spending most of 2012 at designated hitter. Junior Joe Sykes of Atlanta, Ga., will also see time at catcher this season while freshman Chris Grupp from The Woodlands, Texas, will be used during the midweek as he adjusts to a new level of play.
Spring Hill's outfield will consist of junior Jack Lauber of St. Louis who joins the Badgers from Meramec Community College and centerfielder sophomore Andy Robbins of Kirkwood, Mo., who proved to be a dependable fielder with tremendous range as a freshman. The starting honor in left field will be a battle between the three freshmen Toscano, Mason Hutson of Town & Country, or Greg Hardnett of Mobile who could emerge from the pack of contenders.
On offense, Spring Hill will continue to hit for average with a lineup that admittedly lacks power hitting. "Except for Stevens, we're not a power team," says Sims. "But we have good team speed and we will use that to put pressure on the opposing defenses. Runs will be valuable this year and we have to move runners along when we can."
Sims sees his team as having a real chance to succeed in 2013. "We can't afford to give any games away," he says. "The schedule favors us with several home games early in the year, so if we play smart, use our speed and don't throw the ball away this could be a fun year."
The Badgers open the 2013 season at historic Stan Galle Field on Saturday with a non-conference doubleheader versus the University of Rio Grande (Ohio) beginning at 1 p.m.