The infielders are being led by sophomore Craig Hertler at .395, junior Kyle Bellows at .355, and sophomore Danny Stienstra at .343. Bellows is doing well coming off a disappointing 2008 season in which he hit under .300, and Stienstra is following up an All-American season with another good year. Junior Corey Valine is hitting .306 so the infielders are doing their part as well. Catching has been solid if not outstanding with senior Anthony Aguilar hitting .284 and sophomore Bryson Rahier contributing at .250. I've said in the past if you have a good catcher who can manage the game and the pitchers, you'll take what you get as a hitter and be happy.
How is pitching? The team ERA is 3.83 which is about half the opponent's and is considered excellent in the aluminum bat era. A Jekyll and Hyde situation here; good starters with a pen that has been a little unreliable. That 7-5 loss in Hawaii is a case in point. Yuck, let's move on.
Starting pitching is still the Spartans' strength. Senior Scott Sobczak (4-1 and 2.31), junior Max Peterson (5-0 and 2.91) and senior David Berner (5-1 and 2.41) are most definitely the leaders. Berner has an astonishing 50/8 strikeout to base-on-balls ratio and the staff is just about 2/1 in that regard. That is excellent indeed. Senior Ryan Shopshire (2-1 and 4.39) has recently stepped up to possibly be the regular number four starter. Getting a fourth starter is a problem with most colleges and the Spartans are lucky to have the stable of strong arms that they do - all seniors, except Max Peterson.
Now comes the problem that needs to solved. The pen is not doing too well. Coach Piraro doesn't want to overwork his starters by leaving them in too long, which can happen if he loses confidence in his relief corps. At one point it appeared the Spartans had a closer in senior Anthony Vega but he hasn't done too well as of late (7.80). Sophomore Luke Mazzanti (2.16) and senior Trevor Gibson (3.55) have shown promise and might get more innings as the season goes on.Freshman results? Look at these stats and smile:
- Anthony Bona .390 in 41 AB
- Craig Broussard 6.75 in limited action on the mound
- Esteban Guzman 1.69 in limited action also but should be a major cog in the future
- Andy Hennessey No stats so I figure he is redshirting. Injured in high school.
- Michael Reiling .273 in 33 AB
- Josh Silver .429 in 21 AB
You look at the senior-laden starting pitching and think of what the heck is going to happen next year. A lot of high school and junior college pitchers will hopefully be coming in to fill the void, along with what remains. Still, it is an area of concern and the sense of immediacy for this season remains.
Don Starks is the Baseball Editor for Inside Sparta. You may contact Don with any questions, comments, or tips at email@example.com