Spring Hill College baseball head coach Frank Sims is confident that the 2014 edition of the Badgers is ready to begin the new season. "We are leaps and bounds better than we were at the same point last year," he says. "We have a solid and experienced defense, our offense is more consistent and our pitching is deeper."
To the outside observer, the most obvious strength of the Badgers is the experience that returns to the infield. Sophomore Willie Floros of University City, Mo., returns to 3rd base after a freshman year where he started all 50 games the Badgers played in 2014 at the "hot corner." Floros will rejoin two-year starter and senior shortstop Brooks Bobinger of Mobile, Ala., on the left side of the diamond while 2nd base will be patrolled by three-year starter and NAIA Gold Glove winner senior Brian Sims of Mobile. The two Spring Hill middle infielders have combined for 243 starts in their careers. Kyle Freeman, a junior from Pensacola, Fla., moves into position at 1st base after transferring from Jefferson Davis Community College. "Our infield is solid," says Sims. "They are confident and consistent, so we look for them to have a big year."
The outfield features two new players, but it is far from being young. Left field will be manned by senior Mykol Sostarich who comes to SHC from Missouri Baptist while junior Taylor Eads of Slidell, La., takes over in right field and junior Andy Robbins of Kirkwood, Mo., returns to centerfield for his third season. "The outfield is a good group of players and they should provide more offense for us this year," says Sims.
Junior Roy Moulder of Milton, Fla., steps into the catcher's role for his first season at Spring Hill and will be backed up by junior Nick Quinn of Jacksonville, Ala. "Both of our catchers enjoyed good junior college careers," Sims says. "They will be strong on both defense and offense for us and had very good fall workouts."
The Badger pitching staff also had very good performances during the off-season according to Sims. "Our pitching staff is much more experienced and brings better knowledge of the game with them to the mound than many of our more recent staffs," he says. "Our starters are strong, our relief is deeper and we have a true closer." Sophomore Johnathan Billings of Luling, La., moves into a starting role after spending 2013 in middle relief. Sophomore Wesley Parrish of Fairhope, Ala., makes his Badger debut this year after a solid season last year at Enterprise State Community College while junior Jack Howard of Decatur, Ga., returns for his third season with Spring Hill. Sophomore Paul Sullivan from St. Louis, Mo., also moves into a starting role after a freshman campaign as a reliever in 11 contests. Sophomore Hunter Nowak of Alpharetta, Ga., who built a 3-1 record with a 2.70 ERA in seven freshman appearances, will also join the starting staff.
The relief staff is highlighted by the return of junior Keller Douglas of Covington, La., who earned five saves with a 3-2 record in 14 appearances in 2013. "Having a true closer in Douglas is nice," says Sims. "Now, it's our job to get some late leads and put more games in his hands." The middle relievers who will look to set up Douglas include junior Brady Hitt of LaPlace, La., sophomore Jesse Hanson of Hallsville, Texas, freshman Christian Bahlinger from Mandeville, La., junior Robert Quinn of Jacksonville and freshman Shane Petrie of Mobile. Junior Ryan Stevens of Theodore, Ala., will also make the transition from catcher to designated hitter and relief pitcher.
The Badger bench is deeper than in the past as sophomore shortstop Blake Toscano of Metairie, La., will see playing time because Sims hates to see his defensive skills not get put to use. Senior 3rd baseman Rick LaForce of Irvington, Ala., has 60 starts to his credit in three years at Spring Hill while junior 1st baseman Cyrus Beermann of Tampa, Fla., has experience in the field and on the mound in relief. Sophomore Garrett Webb of Gainesville, Fla., is a solid performer at both middle infield positions and sophomore Andrew Solliday of Bedford, Ind., can play 1st base and make relief appearances as needed. Junior Jacob Malkoff of Enterprise, Ala., will also see time on the infield at 1st base.
"This year we have a much more solid line up," says Sims. "We aren't starting any freshmen as we have had to do for the last several years and every position is covered by an athlete with at least one year of college starting experience. Our freshman will be valuable components, but I no longer have to throw young players into sink or swim situations."
Sims sees this year as a season to make serious strides forward with the program. "What we have to do this year is learn how to win those close ballgames that we have let slip away in the past. Our offense has good leadoff men in Sostarich and Sims and the rest of our lineup is solid enough to bring them around. Even the bottom of our lineup features consistent hitting. Our pitchers have to throw strikes, our offense has to score late runs and our closers have to finish."
The Badger head coach says his goal is to make the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) Tournament, but if his team plays up to its capabilities they could go even further. "The SSAC is so strong that if we can make the tournament and then finish even in the top four then a regional bid is not out of the question for us," Sims says. "If we can win the close ones this year, it will make all the difference in the world. We were not that far off last year. The team has a positive attitude now and having that confidence will translate into more wins."
The Badgers open the 2014 season at home on Friday at 3 p.m. with a non-conference doubleheader versus the Martin Methodist College RedHawks from Pulaski, Tenn., at historic Stan Galle Field.
Mobile, AL |
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